Longtime friends Elizabeth Poett-Campbell and Katie Hames said it was during the spring that they started thinking about growing pumpkins this year for their families.

The two women live on neighboring ranches — the same ranches where they were raised — just outside Lompoc and, therefore, had plenty of space and resources to get going on what they thought would be a small garden they would tend to as a pet hobby.

As they started to research the possibilities, however, their vision expanded.

“We just kind of got carried away,” Poett-Campbell said this past week from a large barn on her family's ranch. “We started out looking at seeds and we just saw all these different beautiful varieties, and then we got this idea of doing tons of beautiful varieties and to share them with them community.”

Their efforts ended up resulting in a 2-acre all-natural pumpkin patch that the women decided to open to the public. The attraction is located at Rancho San Julian, a cattle ranch owned and operated by Poett-Campbell’s family since 1837. The ranch is located at 6000 San Julian Road, which is off Highway 1, about 11 miles south of Lompoc.

The patch is open from 3 to 6 p.m. daily through October or until all the pumpkins are gone. There is no charge for admission to the patch and each pumpkin has a sticker with its respective price. There are 17 varieties of pumpkins at the patch — from small to large, cooking to ornamental — that range from $1 to $45.

The women see their patch, which also offers other natural attractions, as an alternative to many of the pumpkin patches that sprout up in cities at this time of year with transported pumpkins and hay.

“What we really wanted to do is also show people a real pumpkin patch where you can actually see where the pumpkins are grown,” Poett-Campbell said. “That’s kind of a different thing. It’s simple, but I think for children and families it’s a really great thing to be able to come out here and see where they’re grown and talk to people that actually grew the pumpkins.”

Along with the pumpkins, the patch is also offering free story time sessions for children, as well as nature walks around the farm. During the walks, the kids will have the chance to talk to a botanist and view other plant species and butterflies, as well as bird-watch with binoculars.

Nature walks are scheduled for 3 p.m. Oct. 15 and 22 and story times are scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday and Wednesday.

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Since opening on Oct. 1, the ranch has drawn visitors from as far away as Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo counties, according to the women.

“We weren’t really sure what people would do, if they’d just go out and grab a pumpkin and not go back,” Hames said. “But it was really cool on Sunday, and since then, to see a family go out and they’ll walk all around in the field, and they’ll go in the corn and they’ll go over to the flowers and look at the butterflies and take a family photo. It’s been neat to see how everyone uses the space.”

Some have even hung around the ranch for family picnics, she added.

The two friends said they had plenty of help in setting up the patch. Assistance came from family members, as well as local farmers Chris Thompson and Jerry Signorelli.

Noting that they are “so happy with how it’s turned out,” Poett-Campbell said they are entertaining the idea of making the patch an annual event.

“I think so,” she said of bringing it back next year. “I think we’re having fun. We’ve had a good time with it.”

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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