Farm Feature: 40 Years Of Passion Showcased On Manchester Pumpkin Farm
Dean and Jackie Sherman own and operate Sherman’s Pumpkin Farm in Manchester, Iowa.
When they started 42 years ago, the farm was more of a passion project the two did on top of their jobs. Dean was working at the post office, and Jackie was at the bank. They would sell their pumpkins from the side of the road with an honor box posted on the porch.
Over the years, as their stand got more and more popular and the two started adding more for people to enjoy explained Dean.
We added a tire swing in the backyard and then people would not only come to buy a pumpkin they'd come and play. We had picnic tables and a fire pit; people would do birthday parties around the fire ring. Then when we started doing the corn mazes that really added a lot more traffic and made it more of a destination where they come and play on the different features that we build.
And when you are on the farm, you will instantly be able to tell the amount of passion the Shermans have for what they do. Whether it be by the details in their corn maze and structures, the pumpkin patch, to what Jackie refers to as their “comedy routine” when taking a tour.
We kind of tell them we have a stand-up comedy routine; not only on our marriage of 55 years but just of the fun things that we've been through the planning of the crop. When Dean's riding in an air-conditioned tractor and I'm riding in the heat.
And there are so many more stories the two will share with you while on the farm.
The corn maze and hay rides are offered on the weekends from 10 am to 5 pm. Even while giving hay rides, Dean makes sure to have fun with the riders.
I sometimes tell people that I do the free hayride so I can get a crew rounded up and we drive around 15 acres of corn and eight acres of pumpkins. And I always tell them that when we get to the other end, we're going to stop and pick a load of pumpkins. But I don't usually put them to work.
The corn maze is a major highlight of the farm. The Shermans put a lot of work into drawing out the maze designs, building the props, and challenges.
Before diving in and doing their first maze, Dean went and sought guidance from Iowa’s most iconic cornfield.
The Field of Dreams people had done a corn maze and I was impressed with what they were doing. The manager over there told me how they did it and we thought we can do that at the pumpkin farm.
The first maze they did was a Jack-O-Lantern. And even right at the beginning, they put out Wilber and Walter, the two scarecrows that visitors need to try to find in the corn as well as six stations.
Every year I try to add some features to it. So, when you walk through the trails, you could see the shapes and compare it to the map that you have in your hand.
These features include “rooms” in the corn and different sun structures kids can play on.
But when it comes to the design of the corn maze, Jackie plays a big part in making sure the design is perfect.
The first thing we always look at is to make sure that it is not in copyright. I kind of revert back to the childhood stories like Peter Pan or Noah's Ark, Seven dwarfs. When we did the old women that lived in the shoe, I painted little boys and girls and those were our stations. So the idea was you needed to find that little boy and girl at the station and find out what their name was.
The design process begins in the winter. Jackie comes up with a design, and the two of them go back and forth as they tweak it until they have a final plan in March.
Listen to more stories Jackie and Dean have about the behind-the-scenes of all the corn mazes they have done: