If you grew up in Central Oregon, chances are that you picked your perfect jack-o-lantern pumpkin at Smith Rock Ranch—a huge pumpkin patch with spectacular views located in Terrebonne. But this Central Oregon pumpkin patch wasn’t always so grand. Farmer Matt Lisignoli grew up as a city kid in northeast Portland, and dreamt up the idea to start his first pumpkin patch on a rented farm in Redmond in 1998. While some people thought Lisignoli was crazy to farm pumpkins in the high desert, the operation, then called Central Oregon Pumpkin Patch, was a success.
Fast forward to 2001 and the growing Lisignoli family—which includes Matt, his wife Kendra and three kids—had moved the business to a historic homestead in Terrebonne, right next to Smith Rock State Park. Lisignoli said that they are extremely fortunate to find the location of Smith Rock Ranch, and that they have made the farm a special place for families to look forward to each season. The new pumpkin patch and working farm was named Smith Rock Ranch. Like Redmond, Terrebonne turned out to be a great location for growing pumpkins, as the northern part of Deschutes County offers a warmer, more ideal growing climate than areas to the south. In addition to the climate, having Smith Rock ranch looming in the background only makes the experience at Smith Rock Ranch that much more unique.
Today, Smith Rock Ranch is home to an enormous pumpkin patch, as well as a themed corn maze called “Maize,” a pumpkin cannon, petting zoo and other family-friendly activities. While the patch opens in early October each year, the months leading up to the anticipated autumn season are the busiest for the Lisignoli family.
As the ranch is also a working farm, producing carrots, onions and blue grass seed, the land requires roughly four full-time employees throughout the year before pumpkin planting begins in May.
Early mornings on the farm are often the busiest time of day for the Lisignolis and their employees, particularly in the days leading up to the ranch’s public opening each fall. Once the pumpkin patch is open for the season, they are up early to stock shelves at the harvest market, ensure activities including the pumpkin cannon, zoo train and shooting gallery are ready to go and tend to the animal on-site. Cars start to file in around 9:30 a.m., and people arrive in search of their prized pumpkins.
During the day, the Lisignolis are working hard to provide a fun, engaging experience for families. People are milling about, kiddos searching among a field of dotted orange carving pumpkins and families are trying to find their way out of the maze.
Each day, thousands of pumpkins are taken home by ranch visitors, so daytime activities for ranch staff include restocking wheelbarrows full of gourds in the pumpkin field and carting pumpkins over to the cannons, where visitors can launch pumpkins toward a target. More than sixty varieties of pumpkins and squash are grown at the ranch, and while each takes equal effort to grow, harvesting some of the smaller varieties requires more time and attention.
The other beast—apart from the pumpkin patch—is the corn maze, which is themed annually based on current events, such as recent movie releases. “Kendra and I look at anything significant during the year which will make a family-friendly maze theme and design,” Matt Lisignoli said. Smith Rock Ranch partnered with the Maize company in 2003, which has led to the enormous labyrinth everyone who visits for a pumpkin can additionally enjoy. They keep the corn maze watered for as long as possible before opening for the season, to keep the corn healthy and minimize dust until the ranch opens for the season. As well as the pumpkin patch, each year, the location of the maze is moved to a different field, so the previous one has time to replenish nutrients. When the water is off, they jump into setting up the props and the maze entrance. While the theme of the maze isn’t always obvious from the ground, aerial photography can capture maze-goers winding their way through themed mazes, with past designs representing “Godzilla,” “Sherlock Holmes” and “The Cat in the Hat”.
When the crowds begin to diminish each evening and leave the ranch with carving pumpkins and Halloween decorations in hand, Smith Rock is distant in the rearview. Everyone working at the farm is able to catch up and relax on the stunning property before waking up early and doing it all over again.
The pumpkin patch is open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends, from early September through late October each year. Get to the ranch early in the season though because Lisignoli estimates they sell several thousand pumpkins each day, and the enormous ‘trophy’ pumpkins are snatched up quickly. Apart from the most popular carving pumpkins, Smith Rock Ranch also sells the specialty colored pumpkins, gourds, straw bales and corn stalks that make for excellent porch decorations during the fall season.
More Central Oregon Halloween Traditions
Fall is a special time to visit Central Oregon, with many activities around the region. Here are a few more Halloween-specific traditions to enjoy in Bend, Redmond and around Central Oregon.
For more pumpkin patches to explore near Bend, The Patch at Schilling’s Garden Market north of Bend and east of Tumalo is worth a visit. This rustic, quaint farm brings back the nostalgia of selecting pumpkins with your family. Also visit Schilling’s farm stand, offering fresh eggs, veggies, meats, beverages, and fall decor. In Terrebonne, the DD Ranch offers a “U-Pick” pumpkin patch from late September through October each year, along with pony rides, a petting zoo and a hay maze. In Tumalo, Well Rooted Farms also has a “U-Pick” pumpkin patch, along with squashes, both for eating and for use as fall decor.
Central Oregon’s biggest haunted house is The Scaregrounds, taking place each October at the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center. Get tickets to walk through the transformed fairgrounds and be frightened at every turn.
Spooky History Tours
Bend Ghost Tours takes Central Oregon residents and visitors on a voyage of the haunted locations around Bend. Take a guided trip through historic alleys and streets of downtown Bend, and learn about the many spirited residents hiding in plain sight.
More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.
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Pumpkin Patches + Petting Zoos = Fall Family Fun
As soon as the first hint of autumn rolls around, my three kids ask on a regular basis when we can go to the pumpkin patch. This is not simply because they’re eager to gather Halloween décor. To my kids (all under the age of 12), fall means visiting the farm and getting all the animal petting, ropes course playing and barbecue eating they can squeeze into one afternoon.