Walter Manis is known as the “punkin man” for a good reason.
During the months of August, September and October, Walter is surrounded by pumpkins and fall activities all day, seven days a week, but he wouldn’t think about spending his days any other way. The Manis family farm, operated by Walter, Kathy, Gergana and Yasen Manis, is known as Punkin Patch Farm and has been providing fun family memories for two generations now.
When Walter retired from his career in sales with Pet Dairy in Kingsport, he decided to give farming a try on his in-laws' farm in Nickelsville, Va. The farm was used to grow tobacco but, one year, Walter decided to try his luck at pumpkin farming. He wanted to make the farm a “fun farm” and enjoy the time with his family while working there during his retirement.
The pumpkin crop was successful the first year and now, 23 years later, Walter is still producing a continuously growing crop of pumpkins every season. One reason why Walter believes his crop is usually successful is because the pumpkins grow on a hillside. It provides good drainage for the pumpkins when the summer is extremely wet.
Because of the sloping terrain, Walter and his devoted helpers do everything by hand and work long and hard hours to bring the pumpkins down and get them ready for the seasonal activities. Two friends, Bobby Marshall and Bob Surber, along with Walter’s son, Yasen, help with the day-to-day activities and keep the operation running smoothly.
This year, the 20-acre farm produced approximately 2,000 pie pumpkins, 1,000 jack-o-lantern pumpkins, and 50 large pumpkins.
Their spacious barn has been converted into the perfect space to display plenty of pumpkins - in a range of sizes - as well as mums, Indian corn, gourds, apples and honey. There is an area with props for pictures, and a photographer is there on weekends.
Every Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m., there is live music from the Allen Hicks Bluegrass Pickers Jam Session and all professional and amateurs are welcome to join. A later addition to the original barn provides seating in pews, along with tables and chairs.
The farm is open now through Oct. 31, seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday; and 1 to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
Everything at the farm is reasonably-priced, from the pumpkins to the farm visit. For $5 per person, visitors can enjoy a 30-minute hayride, a corn maze for younger children, farm petting zoo and a pumpkin for kids. A reservation is required for large groups.
Walter said the best part is watching a group of children get excited about visiting the farm. They often have school children, church groups and Scout groups visit. Along with a fun experience, the school groups also receive an educational talk about the produce grown there, why Indian corn is multi-colored and where bread comes from. Walter wants them to realize there are many steps that take place before they go out and purchase something from the store and how the planting/growing process happens.
There is a Halloween party on Saturday, Oct. 26, where kids can come dressed in their favorite costumes. Treats will be provided for all kids and there will be a covered dish dinner.
Between 3,000 and 5,000 visitors come to the Punkin Patch Farm every year and, Walter said with a smile on his face, “As long as I’m able to, I’ll be out here growing pumpkins.”
The Punkin Patch Farm is located at 984 Cowans Creek Road in Nickelsville and is easily located by following the bright orange signs once you enter Nickeslville. For more information or to make reservations, call 276-479-3228 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also “Like” Punkin Patch Farm on Facebook for regular updates about upcoming events.