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The demise of the pumpkin patch

Submitted by on Monday, 27 October 2008 No Comment

Forget Disney: Resdendiz Family Fruit Barn is the happiest place on Earth for the guys.

They know it as the pumpkin patch, because Halloween three years ago was the first time we visited. There were bounce houses and gourds ranging in size from bigger-than-the-guys to mini-basketballs. Big Guy was wide-eyed at the former and tried to bounce the latter. Smashing pumpkins came close to being more than a band that day.

It’s not just an autumn thing, though. There’s a fish pond, petting zoo and room to zoom. It gets a bit untidy if we’re there when the irrigation sprinklers kick on. We stripped the guys down to their underwear and they road home near-naked that day — my car’s a mess, but not that messy.

The guys have met emus and their scary eyes and fed horses, cows and donkeys. They’ve learned that food doesn’t pop up unaided in grocery stores.

There’s a bakery with scrumptious home-made pastries we can never buy because of Big Guy’s allergies, but they also make fruit smoothies acceptable even to Mr. Picky. And there’s always a stock of seasonal fruits.

There are acres of fruit trees and rows of crops, many tended by area grade school classes.

I didn’t take my camera this year when we bought out second round of pumpkins. Didn’t see the need. I have plenty of photos from Halloweens past, and, besides, there’s always next year.

Maybe not, according to a flier I spied as I paid for our purchases two weeks ago. The fruit barn, and its accompanying 32 acres, are for sale.

It’s inevitable that you slowly lose your children’s childhoods — the believe in Santa and the tooth fairy, the hope that dandelions and stars will make wishes come true.

I just didn’t expect to lose this chunk so soon. And such a valuable chunk, both to the guys and to the community.

I don’t know why the family is selling, but I know that farming is hard. Despite all the national media attention to huge grower subsidies, it’s not like that here.

In fact, until the most recent incarnation of the farm bill, growers of “specialty crops” — only in legislative language could fruits and vegetables be specialities — didn’t get much help at all. The subsidy survived this time largely due to the stubbornness of a local congressman, who insisted on helping valley agriculture and at the same time helping school serve children more healthful lunches.

And I know Francisco Resendiz has been at this a long, long time. He worked the fields and orchards of the Central Valley for two decades, putting brothers and sisters through school, before buying his own place. They’ve done well in the 20 years since, but they’ve also done good for the community.

I wouldn’t blame him if he’s tired, particularly after a ridiculous zoning battle with the county a few years back that blocked the Fruit Barn from annual traditions such as its autumn festival.Seems such pursuits aren’t allowed in the area, which is zoned strictly for agriculture, and they were stopped.

Aren’t the folks who were complained going to feel incredibly silly if the 32 acres wind up carved into ranchettes? Or worse. Building densities being what they are in the valley today, a developer could easily replace the Resendiz orchards with 150 or more homes once the housing market bounces back.

I hope that doesn’t happen. I hope the Fruit Barn remains exactly what it is, a fun, affordable, educational weekend jaunt for the guys and a lot of kids like them.

In case it doesn’t, though, we have one more trip to make this year — jack-o-lanterns don’t linger long in 80-degree heat — and I’m taking my camera this time.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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