NORMAL, Ill. (WCIA) — For seven weeks in the fall, upwards of 50,000 people will go to the Rader Family Farm. At that time, the 2,600-acre corn and soybean farm turns its focus to its 50-acre pumpkin patch which draws the community there.
The Rader Farm is relatively new compared to most. It began in the 1940s when Lynn Rader’s grandparents began a grain and dairy operation. “And we milked about 60 cows and overtime we had some grain and brought that in to use for our animals,” said Rader. “So we had a pretty good-sized herd and that was our beginning.”
But the focus changed when he planted a pumpkin patch for the neighborhood. “As time went on, I kept adding more acres to the pumpkin and started offering to the public on the honor system.”
“We did find that people stayed, people were joining in on our family,” said owner Amy Hughes. “Playing on our swing set. Playing with our animals and staying…so we added a little straw castle, and we offered a pool full of corn to play in. So that was where the agri-tainment side of our business started.” And from there it became a community tradition.
“Before COVID, we were hitting between 50- to 60,000 for the fall season and we hope to get back up there again,” said Hughes. “It’s usually about a 7-week season that we do in September and October. Start after Labor Day and go until Halloween. We do a lot to educate people in Ag. That’s a big part of what we do here, everything is based on the farm and based on teaching them about agriculture. We want them to get a picture of what country life is like.”
Expansion plans are on hold pending available labor. “We are currently looking at plans to expand the business into other seasons,” said owner Adam Rader. “We’re hopeful for that but this year…with labor and other things we’ve had to address this year, we’re a little bit nervous about it but we are hopeful that things will come back; we’ll be able to have a full workforce again soon.”