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400-pound pumpkin dominates farm’s patch

RUSKIN – Hunting for the perfect pumpkin requires poking about in a patch, and Hydro Harvest Farms will be filled with families throughout October doing just that.

“It’s a beautiful day,” said recent visitor Kay McGriff, of Tampa. “And we wanted to enjoy some Halloween down in the pumpkin patch.” McGriff brought two little ones, Zen Mintlow, 4, and Lyla Pearl-Munoz, 7, to have some fun among the hay bales and hundreds of pumpkins on display at Hydro Harvest.

“We came to see the giant pumpkin!” Zen said, with more than a hint of excitement in her voice. “It’s bigger than me!”

Terrie Lawson and her husband, John, owners of Hydro Harvest Farms, traveled north to the Carolinas to find the 400-pound goliath orange gourd the child described. “The only way we could unload it and get it up on the display was with a forklift,” Lawson said.

The couple builds and stocks the pumpkin patch every year in celebration of fall and anticipation of Halloween. They fill it with lots of spooky decor to make each visit memorable for the kids.

Last Saturday, parents pulled their small children around in little red wagons, and the kids bounded about trying to pick up pumpkins as big as themselves.

Dozens explored the spooky eerie grounds, which included witches, flying ghosts and hidden goblins. Throughout the farm’s hydroponic plants and festive fall crops for sale, Halloween displays abound.

“I love all the haunted stuff,” Lyla said, as she darted in and out of the pumpkins.

Emily Lopez, of Ruskin, was there with her three children. “This is so much fun and the kids just love getting outside.”

Her daughter Madison, 8, attempted to corral her younger brothers, Parker, 3, and Lincoln, 1. “They get excited about Halloween,” she said. “We want to pick out a nice pumpkin and get it home to turn it into a jack-o’-lantern!”

The centerpiece of the Halloween display is the massive pumpkin, which will be displayed through the end of the month.

“It’s just like the Great Pumpkin cartoon,” Madison said.

The Lawson’s enjoy creating community events at the farm, including their annual Boo Fest, which will be held Oct. 24 from noon to 3 p.m. The event is free and families are encouraged to attend.

“We’ll have pumpkin-decorating contests, games, treats and a costume contest,” Lawson said. “A lot of folks can’t afford to spend a bunch of money on Halloween. We offer a completely free program for the community to come out and have some fun with their kids.

Hydro Harvest also hosts themed special events around Easter and Christmas. The focus is on community, on family and having a good time.

Hydro Harvest Farms is a hydroponic operation that was started in 2006. Fruits and vegetables are grown in liquid media fed with special nutrients.

“We have fresh food for sale year round,” Lawson said, adding they sell hydroponic equipment and other organic products. “We just planted strawberries, and you can come in late November and get fresh, locally grown berries for your Thanksgiving dessert.”

Hydro Harvest Farms is at 101 Shell Point Road E, Ruskin. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

For additional information, call (813) 645-6574 or visit www.hydroharvestfarms.com.

Freelance writer Douglas Arnold can be reached at bylinedouglasarnold@aol.com.

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