November 16, 2023
by Colleen Settle
Matt Kurtz is the sixth generation farming the Kurtz Family Farmstead, which started as a row crop operation over 150 years ago in New Haven, Ind. Today, the farm is owned by Kurtz’s parents, Ralph and Diana. The family still grows corn and soybeans, but they expanded to seasonal produce and pumpkins in the 1980s. Kurtz Produce supplements the farm’s income and provides a variety of produce to the local community.
“My family has been doing this longer than I’ve been alive,” Kurtz says. “While the No. 1 priority is our row crop operation, a lot of labor and logistics go into harvesting the produce.”
During the summer, Kurtz Produce sells sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, peppers and more. In the fall, they sell pumpkins of all sizes in a variety of colors, as well as squash, gourds and other fall decor.
“The fall season gets earlier every year,” Kurtz explains. “People can’t wait to decorate. We are harvesting pumpkins in early September while we’re still picking sweet corn — juggling two seasons at once.”
Pumpkins bring in visitors of all ages. Diana Kurtz hosts Pumpkin School. Local schoolchildren take field trips to the farm to learn how pumpkins grow. Kids can pick their own pumpkins. The event has been a long-running tradition, going on for 34 years.
Appealing to adults, too
However, the Kurtz family realized it wasn’t just kids who enjoyed picking pumpkins. A few years ago, they started offering a U-pick approach to pumpkins, instead of only selling them pre-picked.
Kurtz also suggested a corn maze for visitors to enjoy after pumpkin picking. He designed the maze using an Excel spreadsheet and transposing images on his computer. Then, he sent it to a crop consultant who transferred it to a GPS unit, which Kurtz used as a map to mow the field.
The theme of this year’s maze was the Community Harvest Food Bank in Fort Wayne, Ind. Visitors received $1 off admission to the corn maze for donating a nonperishable good. The Kurtz family, longtime Allen County Farm Bureau members, are dedicated to bringing quality food to the community and working with food banks.
Kurtz Produce also sells pumpkins wholesale. They work with local landscaping and realty businesses, as well as Newfields in Indianapolis, supplying decor for Newfields’ Harvest Nights event.
Bringing the Christmas spirit
Once the fall season ends in mid-November, the farm concentrates on the next holiday: Christmas. What started as Kurtz’s high school FFA project is now a full-time job during early winter. Christmas trees grown in Michigan are sold pre-cut or potted. A variety of trees are available, including Fraser fir, Douglas fir and Scotch pine.
Kurtz acknowledges working with specialty crops isn’t easy, especially across three seasons. But he has a passion for it.
“People in our industry enjoy what they do,” he says. “If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it. I would focus on the cash crops. But it is fun, even if it is a lot of work.”
For more information, visit kurtzproduce.com.
Settle is public relations manager-brand for Indiana Farm Bureau.
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