In 17th century folklore, will o’ the wisp, was the mysterious flickering lights that fairies and ghost beckoned the foolish traveler into the wetlands, never to be seen again. Of British origin, and with the use of a good turnip, the jack-o’-lantern was carved into history from impish children trying to frighten journeyers on the road and later Catholic children carrying them door-to-door begging for soul cakes on All Saints Day. Eventually, it became synonymous with the Halloween tradition of the American household, still implying the same mischievous tone in the “trick or treat” greeting for candy. But the days of the carved turnip are gone, replaced by the pumpkin.
For many people, the spirited search for the perfect carving pumpkin is a family ritual that is passed through generations. It is tradition that is the heart and soul of Omas Pumpkin Patch.
Now in its 14th year, Dave and Brenda Van Ommering, of the Van Ommering Dairy farm in Lakeside made the dairy and agricultural working farm into a family destination throughout the year. But there is something unique about the pumpkin patch, said Brenda Van Ommering.
“We get repeat customers every year,” she said. “We have become a tradition for many families from throughout San Diego County. That to me is really special. We are more than just a business to them. We are part of their family.”
Families line up to get into the fun for all attractions. A play haven for children, Omas Pumpkin Patch continuously grows each year. Dave Ommering gives a hayride tour of the farm where people see both the dairy and agricultural side. On the tour, mules, llamas, cows, ponies and many other animals of the farm greet visitors while he tells them about a day in the life of a farmer and how important it is to be a good steward of the land.
Inside the patch, kids big and small, climb, dig and sleigh down Cottonseed Mountain, make their way through the Hay Bale Maze, wander through the petting zoo, ride pedal carts on the track or bobble their way through the grass on the large and small bouncy horses. Fully equipped with playground equipment, and specialized treats like the cow milking station, sand pile of trucks and tractors, steer roping and hoops, there are plenty of activities where adults and children can spend the day and play together.
Then come home with the perfect pumpkin.
Whether looking for the impeccable pumpkin to carve or cook, Omas has an abundance of pumpkins in all shapes, sizes and colors.
“We started out with a few bins of pumpkins,” said Brenda Van Ommering. “We never dreamed there were so many varieties of pumpkins. This has made me tinker with my baking skills, so we have our best for baking pumpkins. The white lumina and the New Zealand Blues are naturally a sweeter variety of pumpkin and creamier in texture. They come out of the oven when I bake them and you can literally eat them right out of the shell.”
Brenda Van Ommering said the idea of the pumpkin patch was a continuation of her mother-in-law’s work.
“The dairy started here in 1960, and I married Dave, the youngest son of four children,” she said. “At that time my mother-in-law would do tours sporadically as schools called. After taking over, we decided that it would be best to have a season for that. We were starting our family, wanted to be very involved with our own children but still be able to offer things from the farm to the community and make it all work.”
Spring is dairy season, so in April and May kids come from the various schools for a tour for kindergarten and older. Fall brings the pumpkin patch, closely followed by the Christmas Tree Patch. It also books groups, birthday parties and offers a variety of farm products from ice cream and honey to compost and fertilizers.
Admission for children is $8 that includes a water bottle, a pumpkin to take home and participation in all of Omas’ activities, with accompanying adult for free. Omas Pumpkin Patch is open Tuesday through Friday. For hours or more information on the Van Ommering Dairy go to omaspumpkinpatch.com.