There isn’t a man in Kalamazoo, Michigan that loves fall more than Gene, “The Pumpkin Man”. To him, there’s nothing better than a life filled with plenty of Octobers. He has been growing pumpkins since 1957 and sells them from his property — none are sold to retail stores.
Gene Rhodes has worked his grandfather’s farm that he eventually inherited since he was a kid. “I’d sell my grandpa’s sweet corn right here on M-43. I’d open the stand at one o’clock and it’d be sold out by two o’clock.” Gene said, chuckling at the memory.
Currently, Gene is open for the season 10 AM — 8 PM seven days a week until October 31, 2021. “Right now, we have winter squash, pie pumpkins, and about 200 potted mums in assorted colors. Next week, we will start harvesting the pumpkins and gourds.” On a typical year, he sells 200 tons of pumpkins. He also offers honey and straw.
Gene, 85-years-old, has enjoyed a lifetime passion for pumpkins. He drives an orange Cadillac with a vanity plate reading, “PUMMAN,” wears a big, orange Stetson hat, and eats his meals at a solid white oak table shaped like a pumpkin — round with a stem. “I sleep on orange sheets and my comforter has pumpkins all over it. My buildings are orange and so are my tractors,” he said, laughing, “and I like to wear orange shirts.”
When asked if he dresses up for Halloween, he said, “Oh, I have a time or two. I’ve been an old lady … and I’ve been a young lady, but I like to decorate for the holiday better.”
Gene loves people as much as he loves pumpkins. He’s often seen chatting with visitors on his front porch. He has a big smile and a bigger heart. For years, as President of the West Oshtemo Grange Association, Gene Rhodes gets the honor of delivering dictionaries to third graders in various area schools at the beginning of the school year and delights in the children's excitement.
“The Pumpkin Man” has become an icon of Kalamazoo. Visiting his farm in the fall is a tradition many families have been enjoying for decades. Those who once experienced Gene’s farm as a child are now bringing their children to the farm. The community has many fond memories of choosing the perfect pumpkin in preparation for Halloween. Be sure and stop in and say hi to Gene and pick up a few autumn necessities and decorations. He is located at 22637 M 43 Highway West, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
If you’ve visited Gene’s farm, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments. I hope you all get a chance to get outside and savor Gene’s favorite season of the year!