My name is Tarry and my wife Jan and I have three children. Tyler 27, Nick 24, and Sarah 18. We bought our 30-acre farm in 1994 after an extensive search around the Council Bluffs area. We then moved from our small acreage just east of Treynor Iowa into the old farmhouse built in 1890, which we now use as the haunted house. It was quite the change going from a newer ranch home to 750 square foot old farmhouse with tilting floors, breezy walls and the occasional spider.
But, we had a dream. Our dream was to plant an apple orchard and build a new home towards the back of the farm. 1995 was the big year, we planted over 350 apple trees with a hand power auger and begun the construction of our new home. We also planted our first pumpkin crop towards the front of the farm and begun our first year selling pumpkins as Pioneer Trail Orchard and Pumpkin Patch. Our dreams were great, but all of our efforts have seemed like an uphill challenge, but we’ve continued to hold on to our dream.
With hard work and dedication, Jan and I continued to work our full time jobs as well as operate our farm and build our new home. Unlike some, we really did build our own home. Our only contract help was with the footings, cinder block and some drywall. We have done everything else on our own with some help from my brother Larry and brother-in-law Kent Sievers and only as we had enough money to buy materials. Initially we tried to get a loan to have the home built, but the bank said because we owned more than 10 acres, they needed us to place 50% down which was beyond our ability. As of August 2009 the home is complete short of some trim work and paint. It’s been quite the journey and I’m not sure I would tackle such a big project again, but we are proud of our accomplishment and have since moved into our home December 30th of 1999.
After selling several pumpkins in 1995, we realized that Halloween held another potential for our orchard venture. It wasn’t too hard to proceed with this direction because I had helped with haunted houses as a teenager for Muscular Dystrophy fund raisers with my parents and a popular late-night scary movie host of Creature Feature known as Dr. Sanguinary.
In 1996 we began offering hayrack rides, converted our old dilapidated garage into our orchard store and converted the barn into a haunted barn for kids. With a little word of mouth advertising we were thankful to see an increase in families visiting our operation. Both Jan and I really enjoy visiting with all the families that stop by for a couple of hours of fall fun.
In 1997, 1998 & 1999 we continued to grow and added more attractions such as the mini train ride, putt, putt pumpkin, the play area and more. We also expanded our pumpkin acreage to ground at the back of our small farm and modified the hayrack rides to stop at the pumpkin field so families could select their own pumpkin from the fields.
After moving into our new home in 1999 which was still under construction, we began converting the old farmhouse into a hunted house for the 2000 season. Imagination was the key. With not much money to spare we gathered motors, pneumatic cylinders and created several automated props. At first we were worried if the house would be scary enough, but after hearing so many people scream, including adults as well as one poor lady busting the exit door off the hinges to escape faster we decided it must be just fine.
In the next few years we bought another tractor and built another hayrack to support the increase of fall visitors. We also set up three large bonfire areas for groups who choose to have a party while enjoying our orchard & pumpkin patch.
In the summer of 2006 we added a building which served as our entrance to the Orchard & Pumpkin Patch as well as contain our apple sorter and a place to offer our farm grown squash, pumpkins, gourds and store our farm equipment during the off season.
To let the truth be known, these past 26 years have been a challenge. But through it all, Jan, Tyler, Nick, Sarah and I forged ahead with what we love, “Pioneer Trail Orchard & Pumpkin Patch”. Several things have given us the strength to continue, for Jan & I personally, it’s the wonderful lifestyle we have to offer our kids. Though everything we do is hard work, our kids have learned the value of hard work and that of entrepreneurship.
Secondly and just as important are the families and many children that visit us each fall. Many families have made us their fall tradition and it’s wonderful to see them return each year and see how their children have grown. There’s something so great about seeing families bond and enjoy togetherness and that Jan the kids & I helped make those moments possible.
We also enjoy all of the children that visit from the surrounding schools, daycares. The children always seem to have a great time playing and really enjoy the hayrack ride to the fields to select their own pumpkin.
In 2018 we applied for and received a Beer and Native Iowa Wine License and began additional operations as Pioneer Trail Orchard, Winery/Bar, Grill, & Pumpkin Patch. Wow! Now we really have a long name. For now we have been using the name of Apple Jacks at “The Patch” which many of our friends and customers have called us for years. With this change we are now open all year rather than just for the pumpkin patch season of late September through October. We also offer Live Music, Comedy and more on most weekends.
With luck and hard work, our dream is to see our Pioneer Trail Orchard & Pumpkin Patch business grow and look forward to the fall of the next year, beginning every November 1st of the prior year.
From Jan, Tyler, Nick, Sarah & I, we hope you enjoyed our brief little story and hope you and your family find the time to visit us this coming 2020 season!