Three generations of family support 10 children in their pumpkin-growing venture

What were you doing at seven years old?

Jack McConnell, now 10, could answer, “Starting a pumpkin farm.”

Papa Mike’s Pumpkin Patch, located at 5635 N. Mission Rd. in Rosebush, is a family affair. Ten children, all cousins, are supported by their parents and grandparents and run a tight ship.

“I just like farming,” Jack McConnell says of why he began the patch. “We started a little garden at my house, then we went a bit bigger into our front yard and moved it here two years ago. Then, all the cousins joined in and we made more money for more types of plants and invested in decorations this year instead of size.”

Jack McConnell, 10, carries a pumpkin to one of two family trucks. Jack began farming and selling pumpkins under the name, “Jack’s Jack O’ Lanterns” three years ago. He shares some of his knowledge by describing why some pumpkins have green bumps. “The nutrients haven’t reached that part yet, so the pumpkin is orange, and the warts are green.”

Becky McConnell, 62, says the profits from the pumpkin stand have helped her grandchildren in many ways.

“[Keagen Paisley] paid off a car at fifteen last year, and for the other kids it’s going into college funds.”

The children also donated $400 of their profits toward a local woman’s cancer treatment fund.

Maeve hoists Hattie Meyer, 3, onto the pumpkin display so she can choose the pumpkin she wants. Callie Meyer, 38, of Mt. Pleasant, speaks to Becky while her daughter picks out her pumpkin for the season. The Meyers and McConnells are family friends and Callie says they wanted to support the children by purchasing pumpkins from their stand.

The children’s grandfather Mike McConnell, 65, lives near the patch of land the family grows produce on and says the kids deserve all the credit for the work they’ve put in.

“The kids made a deal with the landowner themselves,” Mike McConnell says. “The first year was a bust, second year did pretty well, and third year it looks like we’re going to be on par for last year, but there’s a lot of work involved.”

Most of this work often takes place on Sundays says Megan Little, mother of Grace Little, 13, and co-guardian of Dominic, 7, and Lucy Valentine, 6.

Megan Little, 35, pours water for her grandmother, Mary Ann Verwey, 88, after serving her the homemade chili and applesauce Becky made for dinner. Verwey and her husband arrived after the rest of the family finished their first servings of the meal. The family’s Sunday dinners allow its four living generations to interact on a regular basis.

“The family has Sunday dinner together every week between sporting events,” she says. “When it’s hot, we have a pool.”

About six varieties of pumpkin are on display in front of the McConnell home and will be available until the day after Halloween. Prices range from $2 to $10 and payment is collected in a coffee tin.

“It’s the honor system,” Mike McConnell says. “If someone takes a pumpkin [without paying], we just assume they need it.”
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