Carving a niche

Abby Fisher

Local pumpkin farm offers more than just gourds

Andrew Bell, 8, of Boardman examines the pumpkins he picked in the field at May’s Farm. The farm is open on weekends during the fall for visitors to come pick pumpkins, go on hay rides and navigate their way through corn field mazes.

Credit: Ben Breier

Miranda Kisha, 2, of Atwater helps her father pick pumpkins in the field at May’s Farm.

Credit: Ben Breier

Jeff May weighs a pumpkin for a customer at one of May’s Farm’s weekend fall activity days. Pumpkins at the farm cost 25 cents per pound.

Credit: Ben Breier


Pumpkin patch

A§ May’s Farm is open Sunday through Thurday until 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m.

A§ Pumpkin prices range from 75 cents to around $12; prices are based on weight

A§ Group discounts for hayrides are available. Call (330) 325-7796 or visit for more information.

A§ 4357 Alexander Rd. Atwater, OH 44201

May’s Farm sits peacefully on the outskirts of Randolph, due south of Ravenna on a still, dusty road. If you drive too fast down Route 44, you’ll probably miss it.

During the height of the autumn months, the farm opens its doors and invites visitors to come and enjoy a hayride, pick out pumpkins and sip hot apple cider on frosty nights.

Farm owner Lee May, 64, a proud Portage County resident for his entire life, has been farming for 44 years. Each year, May plants a variety of crops on his 55 acres of farmable land. The produce includes many different kinds of sweet corn, green beans, tomatoes, peppers and four varieties of pumpkins.

Of all the items May offers, pumpkins are the big seller in October. Visitors to the farm are encouraged to come and cut their own pumpkin right off the vine.

“They like it because they can experience nature the way a farmer does,” May said. “Anyone can get a pumpkin at Kmart or Wal-Mart, but it’s the satisfaction of saying, ‘That’s mine; I chose it.'”

May added nearly 90 percent of the people who visit the farm leave with a pumpkin.

Customers picking their own pumpkins is good for May too. It takes the pressure off hauling the pumpkins to a wholesaler, and May doesn’t need to worry about a slumping market.

According to May, the best time to pick a pumpkin is anytime after the first week of October.

“Some stores have them right after Labor Day – that’s just too early,” he said.

When picking out a pumpkin, May suggests looking for a few specific things.

“There should be a nice, orange color. It should stand on its own and have a sturdy stem for the handle,” he said.

Not everyone follows his good advice though.

“It’s funny because sometimes I see people pick out pumpkins that I would just leave in the field,” May said, chuckling. At the end of the season, most unpicked pumpkins end up as cow feed.

There’s more to pumpkins than just carving and decorating them. May said people come to get pumpkins to make soup, pies, cookies and to roast the seeds.

One pumpkin in particular made it to an NFL football game. A scout from Cleveland drove to the farm seeking the perfect potential jack-o-lantern.

“We tromped around in the fields for about a half hour before he found what he wanted,” May said. “It was neat because every time there was a little commentary break during the game, they’d show my pumpkin.”

During the week, May gives educational tours for school groups.

“On average, we get between 45 and 60 groups per season,” he said. Each visitor gets to choose a pumpkin, gourd or Indian corn to take home as a souvenir.

“I’ve had teachers who come with their class and then again with their families,” he said. “They like the tour and really enjoy the farm a lot.”

Some groups come from as far away as Cleveland and eastern Pennsylvania.

“When local farms drop out of business, there are still people who want the experience of picking your own, so they come here,” May said.

The hayrides at the farm are a popular attraction for all ages. May has hosted senior citizen groups and home-schooled children. Rides are usually around 30 minutes, sometimes longer if people stop to pick pumpkins.

May, his uncle and brother take turns driving a tractor-pulled hay wagon around the farm. During the weekends, May’s four sons also come to help out with the tours.

The ride twists through a forest on the property. It features several “pumpkin-people” scenes ranging from a Forrest Gump park bench to an “American Idol” audition to Spider-Man chasing after one of his nemeses. Each of the pumpkins is hand-painted by one of May’s neighbors.

“She sets up a little assembly line and does each one,” he said.

When visitors return from the hayride, they have the opportunity to wander through the custom-designed corn maze, feed animals in the petting zoo or browse May’s specialty store.

Opened in 1995, the store sells jams, honey and soda pops, as well as soaps and lotions handmade by May and his wife, Betty.

“I try to keep things in the shop that are made locally,” he said.

Some of the exclusive items available in the store are corn on the cob that can be popped in the microwave and pre-made cookie and muffin mixes. On particular nights, May will make kettle corn over an open fire.

“People come here for something different,” he said. “Each year I get people who come just for that.”

May said one of the best aspects of being a farmer is being outside. A true outdoorsman, May loves tromping around his fields with the visitors who come to appreciate the harvest season.

“I really enjoy the fall and all the people that come to the farm,” he said.

Contact features reporter Abby Fisher at [email protected].