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Ellie's Farm Market celebrates 32 years of pumpkins

By Samantha Waggoner
On November 17, 2009

Owned and run by Billy and Karen Moynihan, Ellie's Farm Market and Gift Stand on Route 12 north of Northfield is a Vermont local treasure. Offering not only vegetables, fruit, and novelty items, the Moynihans have hosted the annual pumpkin show for the last 32 years.

"My husband and I got married in 1981, but his parents are the ones that started the store in 1968," said Karen.

Billy Moynihan left his job and started working at the store for his parents when he was 27.

"It was tough for him to make that decision because it was a struggling business and wasn't off the ground yet. But he decided to be part of it and it has grown a lot since," said Karen.

Mr. Moynihan's parents started selling vegetables out of their family garden in addition to having a small dairy farm. His mother always wanted a craft-type gift shop.

"His mother would sit down here sometimes and only sell a squash for a quarter, and she was so happy that she didn't get skunked from not having any sales, and that's how this place started," said Karen.

Since then Ellie's has grown.

"My husband was quite progressive, and put up the fence and planted more acres and planted a larger variety of products," said Karen.

Karen was more involved in the public relations side of the business and worked on getting recognized and gaining more customers.

The pumpkin show started in 1977 and was a result of extra pumpkins from the growing season.

"One year we had about 50 extra pumpkins and we just carved them up and put them out on the fence. So many people were driving by and turned around and went home and brought more people back to look at the pumpkins," said Karen.

The Moynihans decided this would be a good thing to do every year.

"The pumpkins got such a huge unadvertised and unexpected reaction, that we decided that it would be a cool way to thank our customers every year," said Karen.

Every year, Ellie's closes early on Oct. 30 and 31 for the pumpkin display.

"You learn a lot of things when it comes to carving pumpkins and different ways of doing it and perfecting it. I use to carve all of them, but now with the numbers I probably carve 90 percent of them which come to me scooped out," said Karen.

What started with only 50 pumpkins has become sometimes over 1,000 carved and lit jack-o-lanterns showcased on the hill behind Ellie's.

No matter what the weather conditions, the Moynihans always put on the annual pumpkin show.

"Rain, shine, sleet or snow, we always have the show," said Karen.

There is always a charity that is sponsored at the show.

"Charities got involved because people wanted to give money towards what we were doing, because we don't charge people. A lot of these people wanted to do something for us, so we picked a charity to sponsor every year. The first one we did was March of Dimes," said Karen.

Some years there is a personal connection between the Moynihan's and the charity.

"This year we chose the Central Vermont Humane Society because I adopted my dog Lincoln from there. Lincoln passed away this year in April, two weeks before we opened," said Karen.

Giving back is something that Karen and her family enjoy doing every year.

"I wanted to do something for the humane society because you can't replace the joy that my dog Lincoln (brought to) us, so we raised about $1,400," said Karen. 

Every growing season is different, and this year didn't start off too well, according to Karen.

"We didn't even know until the 16 or 17 if we were going to have enough," Karen said. "We did 800 pumpkins this year. We can do about 200 pumpkins a day."

Every year Karen tries to make the show better.

"Part of the issue I have with myself is that when you see how much pleasure and happiness that it brings to not just kids, but to adults, you always want to make it better, and I always am competing with myself to make it that much better," said Karen.

Karen enjoys seeing the same people come back every year.

"It's cool to hear parents say that their parents brought them to the show when they were kids and now they are coming to it with their kids," said Karen.

For the Moynihans, the pumpkin show has become a Halloween tradition and a way for them to say thank-you to their loyal customers.

"We strive to give our customers a good quality product at a fair price, and just want to say ‘Thank you,'" said Karen.

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