By October, every kid is excited about pumpkin season. But the preparations for what most of us don’t consider until Oct. 1 have been happening under the soil since at least June. For four months, farmers pre-irrigate land, hand plant seeds, cultivate weeds, fertilize soil, monitor pests, and harvest pumpkins. To say it’s a lot of work is an understatement.
At Ripken Vineyards & Winery and KG Vineyard Management, the farmers, however, enjoy the work. Mostly because they know the end result is a lot of satisfied customers, most under the age of 10.
“Ripken Vineyards & Winery has grown and donated pumpkins to various causes, which include religious groups, Woodbridge Fire District, San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, Rainbow School, Larson Elementary, the World of Wonders Science Museum, and various wineries throughout California,” says Richard “Rip” Ripken, co-owner of Ripken Vineyards & Winery, also known as Farmer Roochie at the local schools.
Pumpkins are also sold to Michael David Winery and Phillip Farms down the road.
The efforts, however, aren’t done for a profit. In fact, most of Ripken’s pumpkin yield, which totaled nearly 8,000 in 2018, is gifted. By delivering pumpkins to community schools, it saves the district money on busing kids to pumpkin patches and allows each child to take home their own pumpkin, free of charge.
It’s a service the Ripken family takes joy in. For more than 40 years they’ve been donating their rainbow of pumpkins from the traditional jack-o-lantern orange to various shades of white, green, yellow, orange, pink, and deep reds, and Rip isn’t sick of it yet. In fact, his favorite part of the season is receiving thank you notes from students across the county. He enjoys the elaborate messages, detailed drawings, and funny comments about how delicious the pumpkins were. He estimates he’s received nearly 5,000 notes so far—and he’s read every single one of them.
The cause is a way for the Ripken family to give back to the community that raised them. Rip graduated Lodi High School in 1962, and all of his children and their spouses have gone to school in Stockton and Lodi. Today, the fourth generation attends elementary and middle schools in the county.
At Ripken, farmers grow many varieties of pumpkins from those prime for carving to those best for making pies, plus mini-decorative pumpkins with endearing names like Baby Bear and We Be Little.
True Lambie, winegrower at Ripken Vineyards & Winery says, “The unique pumpkin varieties are keeping with Ripken tradition of promoting unique winegrape varieties.”
Visit the Winery:
Ripken Vineyards & Winery
2472 W. Sargent Rd., Lodi