The Pick of the Patch

Kaukauna farm has pumpkins galore and more

by Tim Froberg

Linus never got to see the Great Pumpkin in the classic Charlie Brown Halloween episode, but Tim Nickel works hard to supply great pumpkins in the fall.

Nickel is a pumpkin aficionado with uncommon expertise regarding the round, orange vegetable. He knows them, grows them, and sells them at Peter’s Pumpkin Patch in Kaukauna.

The farm – located on the edge of Kaukauna at N181 State Highway – grows more than 20,000 pumpkins annually over 10 acres. Customers can either pick their own from the fields or choose from an assortment of pre-picked pumpkins. In addition to pumpkins, squash, and gourds, the farm also sells apples, plums, pears, Indian corn, mini straw bales, homemade jams and jellies, honey, and salsa.

Customers can use the farm’s apple press to create their own apple cider or purchase what Nickel already has available. He has 800 apple trees on the property and 28 varieties of apples, plums, and pears.

“It is a lot of work – the work never really ends,” said Nickel, who runs the business primarily by himself with the aid of his children, Mason, Riley, and Arianna. “But I enjoy the heck out of it. I really do.”

Nickel grew up on the family farm and has spent his entire life there, purchasing it in 2017 from his parents, Ben and Cindy Nickel, who had operated a dairy farm on the grounds. The dairy operation was eventually shut down and Nickel focused on growing crops while also adding a bandsaw sawmill on the farm.

Nickel estimates that pumpkins represent roughly 60% of the business generated by Peter’s Pumpkin Patch. But who exactly is Peter? That’s actually Tim. His middle name is Peter and he just thought it would be a catchy business name.

“Growing pumpkins is like growing any other crop, really,” said Nickel. “You need good soil quality, good seed, and you just pray and hope the good Lord gives you the weather with enough rainfall. There’s not a lot of chemicals involved, and I try and stay away from them. But there is a lot of weeding and cultivating involved to pull it all together.”

Pumpkins were part of the family business when his parents ran the farm, and Tim has been growing pumpkins since childhood.

“I started growing pumpkins when I was 6 years old in 4H,” he said. “And I’ve never stopped growing them. I’ve been growing and selling pumpkins for 32 years.”

When selecting a pumpkin, Nickel suggests that customers use more than size as a gauge.

“Look for a good color and a good stem,” he said. “There are so many different varieties out there. Look for ones that have no punctures or blemish marks. And when you get your pumpkin, if you want it to last longer, keep it off concrete surfaces. If you put it on a small wooden board, it’s going to last longer.”

Customers can drop by the farm from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call Peter’s Pumpkin Patch at 920-243-3411.

“Nice place to stop and buy pumpkins for the kids, or for pies, also honey,” said one Google review of the farm.

“Wonderful customer service and great selections of pumpkins and apples,” added another Google reviewer.