Bomke’s Patch is a booming hotspot for families to spend a weekend and enjoy the fall outdoors. There’s no better place to pick your own pumpkins or get lost in a corn maze in the Springfield area. Eighteen21.com spoke with 34-year-old Jessica (Bomke) Podany to learn more about their family owned and operated patch and discover how they got into the business of pumpkins and Christmas trees.
Who started the patch?
The patch was started in 2001, which is located on our grandparent’s farm. The business partners are all family: mother/father, sisters/brother and uncles.
Cathy and Brian Bomke (age 57), Greg Bomke (age 60), Jessica Podany (husband Jason) (age 34), Justin Bomke (wife Kim) (age 32), Steve Bomke (wife Cindy) (age 55),
Jordan Byers (husband Brad) (age 30), Janeese Bomke (age 26).
Where did the idea originate?
We started the Christmas tree farm because as children, our parents would take us to a choose-and-cut farm to pick out a tree, and leave empty-handed due to not finding "the one". We preferred the look of fir trees, and the only place to find them were at big box stores. Other than Douglas fir, fir trees are not native to Illinois, so difficult to come by at a local choose-and-cut farm.
We had some pasture on our property, so we decided we would just start our own farm. We started planting in 2001 but didn’t open our doors and sell our first tree until 2009. It takes eight to nine years to grow a fir tree to a saleable size. We now have over 13,000 trees, all planted by hand. Every year we mow, shape, and trim the trees to get them to look like a perfect Christmas tree. We have to also alter the soil to help the firs grow. Due to the soil type and the areas temp/climate, losing a certain amount of trees each year is an expected occurrence on our farm, but we are still the only farm in the area that doesn’t have to import their firs from Wisconsin or the Carolinas.
In 2011, we started growing pumpkins. We knew we may eventually venture out into other types of agritourism or farming (besides trees), so we left our original name "Bomke's Patch" instead of Bomke's Christmas Tree Patch" so we had flexibility later on down the road. We decided we'd give pumpkins a whirl, and planted two acres of pumpkins that year.
Due to the fear of the unknown, we decided not to advertise our new enterprise; we left our advertising solely to word-of-mouth and our road signs (leading people to our farm). Much to our surprise, people flooded in to buy pumpkins. We sold out in two weekends; we were quite overwhelmed with the crowds, but so grateful for such a successful start. The next year, we decided to plant five acres and began adding other attractions to our farm. Since then, through referrals, social media, and a small amount of advertising, it's grown into what it is today. We are now at 13 acres of pumpkins and 13 acres of trees.
What does the patch offer?
Our patch offers many activities, but specifically, has young children in mind during the fall season. Christmas tree season attracts a wide variety of groups, but often families with older children. When we started the patch, we wanted to create a place that was fun and educational; a taste of farm life. We decided out of the gate that we'd like our motto to be "a place where traditions begin...", as we wanted to create an environment where families could make memories and cherish their time on our farm year after year. We also wanted a place that is affordable, so all families could come and enjoy themselves.
In the fall, we offer a ten-acre corn maze, three-acre corn obstacle maze, a bean maze for toddlers, choose-n-cut off the vine pumpkin patch, wagon ride, petting zoo, barnyard bath foam party, live music, retail items, and play areas. We also host many birthday and corporate parties.
Due to the winter weather, activities (such as ones listed above) are limited, but customers make their way to the farm to choose their perfect Christmas tree, browse our shop with the various home decor, ornaments, popcorn, etc. One weekend a season, Santa visits our farm. We will sign out an old fashion bow saw for individuals who are feeling nostalgic and wish to cut down their own tree; if cutting a tree down yourself isn't for you, one our employees will do it for you. We bag and shake the tree, and have it ready for your car. We also sell other greenery like wreaths and garland. Just like in the fall, a free bag of popcorn and a warm drink is always provided.
What is the toughest part about running the patch?
The toughest part about running the patch is that during most of our fall season, a majority of the partners are in the fields harvesting our corn/soybean operation. This leaves the women of the family, and our brother-in-law, to run the pumpkin patch - and sometimes even Christmas tree farm. In addition to running the patch we all hold full or part-time jobs and have multiple children that we take with us when we prepare the patch. While it is very difficult to chase children while working, they have a great time and are making wonderful memories to look back on someday……hopefully.
In the off-season, most of us continue to work our full or part-time jobs. We utilize evenings and weekends during this time to accomplish things on the farm, such as planting (both pumpkins and Christmas trees) and maintaining the farm.
Is there anything new that you hope to bring to the patch?
We hope in the future to have new attractions and to grow our facilities to accommodate our ever-growing crowds.
Are you working with other local businesses or are there any partnerships you are hoping for?
We aren’t working with any local businesses in the community to grow our business at this time, but continue to host a variety of local vendors during our hours of operation - providing our customers with popcorn, handmade jams, soaps, and home decor. We have had conversations of incorporating events geared toward adults in the future, but plans are still in the works.