Hoefling’s Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze located in rural Marcus

It started with a few pumpkins at the corner of a couple country roads.

Nearly a quarter century later, Hoefling’s Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze in rural Marcus continues to attract loyal customers from near and far.

Owners Alan and Geralyn Hoefling, started the pumpkin patch 24 years ago and look forward to seeing new and familiar faces each fall.

“We just like the fact that we’re here for people to bring their families and enjoy the day together,” Geralyn said. “A lot of what brings us back is the people that come back every year and the stories we have along with the people we’ve met.”

At over 50 varieties of pumpkins and counting, in addition to more than 70 types of gourds, the Hoeflings have quickly outpaced the inventory they had on hand during the first few years of the patch.

“When we started it was just the orange and white pumpkins,” Geralyn said. “Back then white pumpkins were really different and kind of odd then. Nobody had those. Now we grow over 50 varieties and the odder the shape or type the better to me. I really like the odd stuff and different colors!”

Squash had become such a popular request from customers that this year they’ve added several varieties of all shapes, sizes and colors for the first time.

“A lot of people buy them for decoration and I remind them that this is squash, you can eat it when you’re done decorating!” Geralyn said.

And with broom corn, Indian corn, wheat, barley, hay bales, corn stalks and much more, Geralyn is quite sure they have everything a customer could possibly need to decorate for fall.

Plenty of baked goods ensure that customers don’t leave the pumpkin patch hungry either.

It started with cookies and a few gift shop items in a small shed. In 2013 an expansion to a bigger building saw a corresponding increase in the baked goods menu.

“Now I bake about 13 different things,” Geralyn said. “Pumpkin bars, brownies, popcorn balls, cookies, pumpkin bread, banana bread, it was a little bit of my family’s favorites to start with — popcorn balls are my husband’s favorite — and certain people come in every year, some twice a week, to get their favorite things.”

Every year Geralyn says she thinks it’s her busiest year yet and this fall is no different.

Three consecutive weekends of great weather has seen people head out to the pumpkin patch sooner than ever before.

“Usually the second weekend of October is our busiest weekend,” Geralyn said. “We opened the last week of September and it was busy all day long.”

In a year with many events and gatherings canceled or postponed due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic, any chance to get out and enjoy a day of fun with the family is cause for celebration.

Hoefling’s is also open during the week, which offers customers an alternative to the busier weekends.

As far as activities go there is the always popular corn maze at $5 per person, and antique corn shellers that still work like a charm.

“We don’t have the handles so we ask the kids to turn the wheels — it’s a little safer that way anyway — and the kids love it. They love to see how that takes the corn off the cob,” Geralyn said. “A couple years ago we found an antique seed sorter. You put the shelled corn in the top and crank it and the nice big kernels go to one area and were usually used for seeding while the cracked and smaller ones would go to feed the chicken or livestock. So that was a fun find and good addition. We’re always looking for things that bring a little history.”

Hoefling’s also hosts private groups and events like painting classes and youth group nights.

A recent “Pumpculent” class combining utilizing pumpkins as the vessel for a succulent arrangement proved to be particularly popular for a Ladies Night Out event.

“It’s great fun to add something a little extra and different for people to enjoy,” Geralyn said.

Whether they’re used to house a succulent, or be carved into Jack-o’-lanterns, in the end it always circles back to the pumpkins themselves.

“We will always be first and foremost a pumpkin patch,” Geralyn said. “We’re just happy to have a place in the community for people to gather with their families and enjoy their time together.”