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Oct 2, 2017 9:48 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Meet The Siblings Prepping Hank's Pumpkintown

Hank's Pumpkintown ALEXANDRA TALTY
Oct 2, 2017 9:48 AM

For the third-generation Kraszewski siblings, returning to Pumpkintown was a question of when, not if.

“My parents started Pumpkintown when I was born, so I’ve always been there in some way,” said Kristin Kraszewski. Now 29, she worked at the seasonal pumpkin patch all through high school, and has memories of reading “The Scarlet Letter,” an assigned book, during a busy holiday weekend.

However, she remembers that it was when she returned home from Cornell College that her tenure at Pumpkintown really began. “My dad made room for me and my brother to take more of an ownership role,” she recalled.

Their parents, Lynn and Hank Jr., still run and manage everything on the farm, but they’ve actively included the next generation, giving their kids agency in the family business.

A nearly two-month-long phenomena, Pumpkintown is the Kraszewskis’ annual fall extravaganza. From pumpkin and apple picking to a corn maze to tractor rides to apple guns, the festivities are autumnal as one can be—and take months of preparation by the family.

Admitting that the season “never stops,” Ms. Kraszewski said she and her brother, Hank Kraszewski III, start focusing on Pumpkintown in the spring. They start painting and building the toys, ordering things for the gift shop and building displays. By mid-August, they begin gearing up at a “crazy” pace.

“When when I was in college, I came home every weekend and worked,” said Mr. Kraszewski, who went to Delaware Valley College, a three-and-a-half-hour drive away. As the 25-year-old says, “the farm is life.”

One Pumpkintown project from his time in college stands out in particular: the combine slide. “The toy,” as the family calls their wooden play structures, features a working combine that Hank Kraszewski creatively transformed into a slide.

Leaving the motor inside so that he could drive the “toy” back and forth to the grounds each year, Mr. Kraszewski had to focus on lots of details with welding and creating stairs, so that it was safe for guests. He finished it the last two weeks of summer before his senior year, in a crunch. An employee gave it a coat of paint and, a week later, it was up and running when Mr. Kraszewski came home from school.

Since her return, Ms. Kraszewski runs the bakery, churning out delectable goods like apple crumb, Dutch blueberry or apple berry delight, a family favorite.

Ms. Kraszewski balances her role at Pumpkintown with a full-time job at Farm Credit East. Although it is “very difficult” and can sometimes be very stressful, she said she’s grateful that her boss and company understand what it means to be part of a family farm. With a laugh, she admitted, “I use up a lot of my vacations.”

With a range of products like pies, loafs, cookies, cupcakes and turnovers, Ms. Kraszewski is kept busy during the season, sometimes baking until 2 a.m. on the weekends.

“My mom and I always had this great idea that we would have a bakery with aprons and powder on our noses,” Ms. Kraszewski said. Then, “we started doing it and we realized the scale.”

Now the millennial operates four ovens, and sells anywhere from 60 pies a day at the beginning of the season to a few hundred by Columbus Day weekend, their busiest weekend of the year.

“I really love it,” Ms. Kraszewski said. “I don’t care if I have to put in the extra time.”

After a few dry summers, this year has Mr. Kraszewski paying extra attention to the pumpkins.

In addition to building the toys, Mr. Kraszewski manages the fields, doing everything from plowing to cultivation. Pumpkins don’t like too much moisture, as it leads to disease. Although the rainfall this season has been average, the past few years have been extra arid. Mr. Kraszewski takes preventative measures to sure that the soil drains well.

For their specialty Prizewinner pumpkins—the extra-large varieties—Mr. Kraszewski starts them in the greenhouse in June. When they are large enough to plant outside, they wait for a less windy day, since they are “real fragile,” he said. They then plant them in rows on top of plastic and straw. Underneath the plastic is a drip irrigation system.

All of these measures allow them to control the growing environment. Since they are bigger, they are more “temperamental” Mr. Kraszewski said.

“Staffing is very stressful for us because it is such a short season,” Ms. Kraszewski said. “People don’t want to give up every weekend in September and October, because there are so many fun things going on.”

However, as Pumpkintown has endured, now the family are welcoming staff that they’ve seen in Velcro sneakers, including one current employee who used to visit the grounds every weekend as a kid.

“Saturday Night Live” seems to have a soft spot for the stand too, as alumnus Jimmy Fallon is a regular, as well as Maya Rudolph and Alec Baldwin. Although the siblings rarely get to see famous patrons in action—they are usually working in the background—Ms. Kraszewski said she did sell Sarah Jessica Parker a cherry pie one year, which was a highlight.

Remarking how “crazy” it is how much they’ve grown, Ms. Kraszewski proudly said, “I don’t think we ever envisioned 10 years ago to be where we are today.”

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