South Pasadena ‘Pumpkin Patch’ A Go-To Place for Smiles

Kids enjoy the pumpkin patch that’s set up annually on the corner of Mission Street and Fremont Avenue. Photos by Henk Friezer

Anita Cagle’s pumpkin patch may have city traffic driving past it all day, but she’s trying her best to bring the simplicity of the country to her red-and-white tent at the corner of Mission Street and Fremont Avenue.

Fathers put away their cell phones and trail their toddlers as they waddle around looking for a pumpkin they can pick up — or at least try before dad or mom has to lend a hand.

Seniors come in vans to have their pictures taken sitting on the bales of hay placed strategically around the lot.

But it is children who make Cagle’s eyes sparkle or mist over with joy. She welcomes classes that come to sit amid the pumpkins and have their teacher read them Halloween stories.

The children then scatter to find a pumpkin, and Cagle will often take a few dollars off each pumpkin for the kids and the teachers. That’s why when you ask her how much pumpkins cost, she’ll say only $5 and up.

“You don’t make a lot of money doing this. I’m realistic about that,” said Cagle, who’s been setting up shop at the South Pas location for the past 11 or 12 years.

“We like to keep things simple. It’s the kids that are important.’’

Simplicity must be working, because Cagle said that grade-schoolers are now returning 10 years later with friends. Some of her helpers are now running their own pumpkin-patch lots.

Cagle and a helper buy from smaller growers, try to thump their stock to make sure pumpkins are not spongy, and that they are clean. She also wants a pumpkin that has a longer stem than the kind stocked by most big-volume stores.

She doesn’t know how many pumpkins she sells in a season, but when the holiday is over she has requests from shelters for leftover pumpkins, and some of the leftovers go to pig farmers.

Then there are the cooks who wait for the postseason sales to buy for their recipes.

Small pumpkins are best for pies, she said, while white ones are sweet and have a lot of meat. Little ones are also good for soup.

Cagle said she’s got a year-to-year lease on the land this time of year. Once Halloween is over, she and her helpers will clean things up and get ready to sell Christmas trees.