Carving out memorable moments at Fischer Farms Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze.
We’ve all heard stories about successful businesses with humble beginnings where entrepreneurs got their start by plying their wares from a basement, garage, or car. But what about a company that got its start from a wagon in front of someone’s mobile home?
That’s the story behind Jefferson City’s Fischer Farms Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze, which has grown from selling pumpkins to customers from an old farm wagon to drawing about 20,000 visitors annually to their thriving fall destination venue.
Jay Fischer was 9 years old when he started growing pumpkins with the help of his grandpa, local farmer Edmund Fischer. They first sold the orange orbs to two Jefferson City grocers — Bob’s Market, which is no longer in business, and Schulte’s Fresh Foods. Soon after, the Fischer boys expanded their pumpkin sales to wholesale markets, including Westlake Ace Hardware stores in Mid-Missouri.
“I grew up with my grandpa, and all I ever wanted to do was farm,” says Jay.
He began raising row crops on his own at age 17 and rented farmland in the Missouri River bottoms before buying his own property at 1905 Mokane Rd. in 1994.
In addition to the pumpkins, the farm also produces corn, soybeans, hay, alfalfa, and seedless watermelons. Jay’s wife, Kim, became an integral part of the business, and the couple were inspired to add agritourism to the farm in 1997 after the birth of their daughter, Jena. Kim longed to be a full-time mom, so she and Jay made the decision for Kim to stay home with Jena and help with the farm. That decision prompted Kim to put an ad in the local newspaper inviting people to come pick pumpkins, and things began to progress from there.
“We just kept adding on,” Kim says with a little laugh. “Because when you farm and deal with fl uctuating prices, you never know what’s going to happen.”
As Jena got older, Kim began hosting Jena’s preschool on field trips to the farm. That aspect of the business also grew, and Kim now hosts groups every weekday the farm is open and hosts private events for special groups.
“I think our success shows that with a little hard work, you can accomplish anything,” Kim says.
I think our success shows that with a little hard work, you can accomplish anything.— KIM FISCHER
The Fischers employ a full-time farm worker, Brody Rhodes; but come late summer and early fall, it’s all hands on deck for the Fischer family. Parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends all pitch in to prepare the farm for the mass of patrons eager to enjoy the bounty of their Missouri farm.
“We have people who come back every year, and now their kids are bringing their kids to the farm,” Jay notes.
Fischer Farms has grown to a thriving agritourism business that has expanded well beyond the original pumpkin patch to now include a 10-acre corn maze, hayrides around the pumpkin patch, corn boxes with slides, an animal barn featuring Clydesdale horses, a mini zip line, and much more. The Fischers have also added local music entertainers to the venue, which is open to the public from the last weekend in September to the first weekend in November. Admission is $8; children 2 and under get in for free. Best of all, visitors can purchase fall decorations for their home.
Rounding out the operation’s offerings is a market featuring Missouri-made products. The retail portion of the business is overseen by Jena, a full-time nanny who takes leave in the fall so that she can stock the market’s shelves with produce, soups, popcorn, meats, and jams from Show-Me State companies. Beehives on the Fischer property yield fresh, golden honey that is also sold at the market.
For the Fischers, it’s all about making people happy and creating lasting memories for families. Signs on the hay wagons sum up their sentiments: “The Fischers would like to thank you for making your family memories at their farm.”
“Knowing that we created something that added a little bit to other people’s lives and made memories for them here at the farm, that’s more important to us than anything else,” Jay says.
Knowing that we created something that added a little bit to other people’s lives and made memories for them here at the farm, that’s more important to us than anything else.— JAY FISCHER
The Fischers are also proud that their farm educates people about the importance and impact of agriculture and that they are able to give a little something back to the local community. They credit the Missouri Corn Growers Association for its help in promoting the agritourism venture and providing guidance and support to the operation over the years.
“We’ve been fortunate to partner with organizations like the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council to share. the story of agriculture and farming to our visitors,” says Jay, who serves on the Missouri Corn board of directors. “So many folks don’t have an agricultural background, and these partnerships give us the tools, resources, and training to better convey our story and our livelihood.”
After 21 years, the Fischers have no intention of slowing down. They recently established a seasonal market offering Missouri-made and Missouri-grown products on the land they own on the corner of Oil Well Road and Cedar City Drive in north Jefferson City. As for the days ahead, their dream is to clear some additional property along the Missouri River as a location for adult hayrides.
“I always say we have been really blessed,” Jay says. “Our operation has grown way beyond what we ever dreamed it to be.”