A1 Beal Pumpkin Gift Shop 1.jpg

David Hayes | Itemizer-Observer

Joann and Don Beal stand outside their new giftshop that replaced their popular pumpkin patch this season.

DALLAS — Things look a lot different down at the Beal farm these days.

Gone are the pumpkin patches which used to host classroom visits by the bus load, replaced by a new gift shop that still offers a selection of the hand-picked squash.

Gone are u-cut Christmas trees, leaving behind empty, re-fertilized fields, ready to plant next year’s seedling crop, if any become available.

Such is the reality Don and Joann Beal face in running a family farm in a post-pandemic era.

Located on the northern outskirts of Dallas, the Beal Farm has offered Christmas trees for more than a decade and a popular, local pumpkin patch the past six years. The state’s COVID safety restrictions changed what services they could continue to offer.

“We would do on a normal year two to three school field trips a day, all week long for the month of October,” Don said. “That really helped us to really put on a full pumpkin patch on the weekends, eight days, open to the public. Last year, we couldn’t do it because of the whole COVID thing.”

Joann said they were able to continue to deliver bulk orders to businesses and schools.

“So, we were able to deliver for free to them. And they were able to have pumpkins, maybe their own patch,” Joann said.

When this school year rolled around, the Beals got bad news from superintendents.

“We started contacting the schools’ superintendent’s office back in early September because that’s when we ordinarily have to start building our patch,” Don said. “They were great, easy to work with. Forthright. They just couldn’t guarantee there would be field trips in October. Because things changed on a regular basis.”

Joann added it’s a big financial investment for a small, family farm, not to mention a lot of time, to plan a pumpkin patch. Unfortunately, without a guarantee of school field trips, it wasn’t worth the effort, especially without clear, consistent guidance from the state.

“It was (about) outside events. At one point the state was saying we could go to outside events, but then you had to wear masks. There was just so much unknown,” Joann said.

“And they limited the number of people who could go,” Don added.

They would have had to hire additional staff to help just to monitor the rules being implemented.

“The pumpkin patch is fun for us, too. But we’re disappointed for the second year in a row, we just couldn’t do it,” Don said. “We just love doing it. It’s a lot of fun for us. We’re hoping, fingers crossed, we’re back up and running next year, full steam. That’s our plan.”

Instead, they canceled the patch, but kept up with bulk deliveries, to groups, and public and private schools.

The good news is the situation has allowed Joann to pursue a larger gift shop, moved out of the barn into a new trailer at the entrance of the property. Out front of the shop is a selection of freshly picked pumpkins to choose from and an expanded selection of seasonal wares to buy inside, from Halloween décor and fall/winter clothing to items for the home and garden to vintage and antique items.

“We purchased this, then had it built in the height of the wood cost increase. We thought it’s not completely finished inside, but we needed start using it,” Joann said. “So, we have all the pumpkins, and a couple more varieties than we usually have on display and available here and in our barn store.”

Then, the store will eventually become their Christmas store.

“In just the week and a half we’ve been open, we’ve been getting all kinds of compliments, really enjoying the store,” Joann said.

Speaking of Christmas, the Beals made the tough decision to not offer u-cut trees this season. A test of their soil revealed the need for more nutrients and fertilizers to nurture a successful crop of trees.

“Don prepped the land, and got fertilizer in,” Joann said. “And a good thing we didn’t get seedlings in because they would have burned in the heatwaves. We lost a lot of very nice trees down the hill. We’ll keep everyone updated on Facebook.”

“We do plan to replant these two fields, hopefully this season,” Don added. “If seedlings aren’t as hard to find as they have been.”

Apparently, the larger farms that order seedlings by the hundreds of thousands get priority over smaller farms like the Beals who only need 6,000.

The Beals try to host events throughout the year to attract visitors to their farm, from Easter to birthday basket deliveries. But it’s hard for them to host public events when the state continues to change its guidelines.

“We’re hanging in there. But we sure wish we could get back up to speed,” Don said.

The Beal Gift Shop

Where: 700 Oak Villa Road.

When: Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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