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Destination: Farmer Ganyard at Upchurch Farm

Posted October 8, 2015
Updated October 9, 2015

For 20 years, Milton Ganyard has been entertaining countless kids, families and school groups with his signature real pumpkin patch, where you can pick from 37 colorful pumpkin varieties, and other fall fun.

This year, Ganyard ... or Farmer Ganyard as he doesn't mind being called ... made a big move to Cary. His pumpkin patch, hay mountain, corn maze and more moved to farm land that's long been owned by the Upchurch family off Louis Stephens Drive.

The Upchurch family wants to keep farming the land. Ganyard knows how to make that happen. So Ganyard Hill Farm in Durham became Farmer Ganyard at Upchurch Farm in Cary.

"It's a win win," Ganyard said. "It's a perfect match."

Ganyard, a retired scientist who owned a scientific research company, started working in farming because his late wife was worried about his health because of his long working hours. Farming is in Ganyard's blood. His family has been farming for eight generations, not counting the years ancestors operated vineyards in France. It seemed like the right fit.

Ganyard started raising vegetables, but quickly learned that sales of fresh produce couldn't compare to the earnings from running a pumpkin patch destination for families. During his first year, 1,700 kids traveled to the farm for a field trip. Last year, it was 11,000.

"It wasn't long before it was made clear that fall was the big seller," he said.

For years, the business ran as Ganyard Hill Farm in Durham. Unlike some other pumpkin patches in the area, Ganyard worked hard to cultivate the land so visitors could pick a pumpkin off the vine instead of an already picked pumpkin from a field. And, in addition to offering the standard orange pumpkin, he also started introducing a variety of kinds from around the world.

"Pumpkins do not like to grow in the hot South," he said. "It took me years of taking it in my chops, but my scientific background gave me a good foundation."

Today, at the new location, the pumpkin patch features 37 different varieties. You'll find orange, blue, pink, white, striped, green, bumpy and smooth pumpkins in all shapes and sizes - and they are spread out across the field. Ganyard mixed the seeds when he planted them.

Ganyard has moved the favorite attractions to his new spot, including the hay mountain, farm animals, hay maze and corn crib that kids love to play in and explore (I had to pull my girls out of the hay mountain).

There's a hay ride that takes you to the four-acre corn maze, which is perfect for families with younger kids. Unlike some corn mazes which are actual mazes with confusing paths and trivia questions, Ganyard has essentially created a path through a corn field with just a couple of short paths that take you to dead ends. It doesn't take too long to navigate your way through the maze and nobody is frustrated on your way out. (UPDATE: The rainy weather has delayed the opening of the corn maze. Ganyard said it should open early the week of Oct. 13).

The kids in my group - ages 5 to 10 - were thrilled just to run through the tall plants. If potential customers call seeking something more complicated, Ganyard sends them to other corn mazes in the area.

The spot is popular for field trips, parties and groups. Admission for individuals ages 2 and up is $14, which includes a pumpkin from the patch. The farm is now open. This month's rainy weather delayed the opening by about a week.

Ganyard looks forward to years at his new spot in Cary and plans additions once this season is done.

"I love it," he said. "The challenge and the smiles I put on people's faces."

Farmer Ganyard at Upchurch Farm, which is a WRAL.com sponsor, is at 2521 Louis Stephens Rd. in Cary.

Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday. For more, check our posts on parks and playgrounds and Triangle family destinations. Go Ask Mom's Halloween and fall fun guide has more information about pumpkin patches across the region.

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