Written by Liz Lovesee
As soon as customers step out of their car and set foot on his gravel driveway, property owner John Bender waves and acknowledges them with a hospitable greeting.
Urban Garden pumpkin patch and corn maze offers Kirksville, Missouri residents an authentic pumpkin patch and farm experience within the city limits.
Located at 701 W. Laharpe St, John Bender and his family own land on which they grow pumpkins, gourds, corn and other produce that he sells at the local farmers market. Customers get to pick their own pumpkins while enjoying a fun and family-friendly atmosphere. Bender and his wife are the main workers on the property, but occasionally their children help as well.
Often calling his customers “sweetheart” or offering them help carrying pumpkins, Bender makes customers feel comfortable and welcome while on his family farm. He said the main goal of his business is to bring kids and families together because Kirksville doesn’t offer a lot of options for affordable family fun.
“It’s for the kids, I wanted it for the kids here to have something to do” Bender said. Bender takes pride in serving groups of children who were removed from their families for various reasons. Children in these situations are able to come to the pumpkin patch and find happiness in the welcoming environment that Bender and his family have created. The Bender family hopes to bring positive memories to their surrounding community.
Pumpkins start at $6 and increase in price according to size, and gourds start at $1 each. The corn maze is $7 per person and once finished, Bender gives each kid a free, miniature pumpkin as his way of saying thank you.
A memory that sticks with Bender and continues to motivate him is that of an elderly couple who once visited the pumpkin patch. Bender remembers an elderly woman absolutely sobbing, and out of concern he asked if she was okay or needed him to call 911. The woman explained to him that she was in her late 80s and had never picked her own pumpkin out of a pumpkin patch before, so her experience at Urban Garden was extremely meaningful. These are the types of memories that Bender aims and continues to provide for people — the authentic experience that isn’t felt when buying a pumpkin at a store.
Barb, an annual customer and older woman
herself, said, “[Urban Garden] is something that the city needed that families can come out and take their pictures.”
Barb comes to the patch every year to pick out gourds for decorating. When asked about the type of gourds she likes the most, Barb replied with, “The weirder the better!”
Urban Garden is decorated with mums, homegrown pumpkins and gourds and even some giant pumpkins. Bender said that often times he has people request to take wedding photos or fall portraits on the property because of the beautiful landscape.
Dave Davis, grower of the giant pumpkins is a good friend of Bender’s and is the sheriff of Davis County, Iowa. Davis often makes trips down to Kirksville with his family to support Bender and partake in the family fun.
“It’s quite the corn maze,” Davis chuckled. According to Bender, the corn maze is a little over two acres.
Starting on October 18th, the corn maze will be turned into a haunted corn maze.
“Halloween night is going to be really good here,” Bender said. He said he hopes to attract a lot Truman students to his haunted corn maze, which costs $10 per person.
“When the gates are open, we’re open,” Bender said. “Anyone is welcome.”
Urban Gardens offers discounts for groups of 10 or more and is open starting the last Sunday in September and closes on October 31st.
Thursday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Haunted corn maze:
Oct. 18-20th, 25-27th and 31st: Open from dark until 10 p.m.