Published Sep 20, 2013

Harvestville Farm: Specialty Production, Agri-tainment, and Family Fun

By Marc Strobbe


Quickly evident at Harvestville Farm in Donnellson is how committed, interested, and excited the Hohl family is about their endeavor. Kathy, Adam, and Judy gave an honest all-access pass for the Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Day “Dissecting the Specialty Farm Experience” just as they were preparing for the Labor Day onslaught…and they were excited about it! Their commitment and energy are infectious and leave no doubt about why the business has grown so quickly.

Participants got the nitty gritty on key topics. Raising specialty crops (35 acres of pumpkins and gourds, over 100 varieties!); dealing with insurance and regulations (make sure the health dept. is your best friend); a myriad of value-added ideas and concepts, and more. They also saw the big picture of why it started for the family and how it all comes together to be profitable and enjoyable. Kathy, Adam, and Judy agreed their greatest strengths are a shared purpose, a tight relationship, and great communication.

After a few years of experimental growth as Kathy’s Pumpkin Patch they realized that selling pumpkins did not keep them busy enough during the week to be profitable. They also had “multi-season dreams” but could not get summer to work right. By expanding to Harvestville Farm they added tourism and education, on-site value added processing, vegetable production, and Christmas wreaths/trees. Now the operation is full time and can support the two families.

As an agri-tainment farm destination the Hohl family works to create memories for guests and to sell value-added products from the farm. They strive to “remain authentic to the farm, and be educational.” They want guests to appreciate that Harvestville is “not an amusement park, but a farm that opened its doors.”

As a family team they analyze each new concept or product to maintain their authenticity. For example they are not interested in the wholesale veggie market because what drives them is on-farm relationship building. These points matter because Harvestville needs to evolve to remain relevant to their customers. Families want to return annually, so as the kids grow they need new features to enjoy and create memories with.

Marketing is one area the Hohls are well versed in. They say Facebook is huge, radio spots are good, and they are considering TV this year. They were all visibly relieved to take a break from the area town parade circuit this year. For the fall and winter decorating market they are creating a home-tour event, offering discounts to those participating, with the tour ending at Harvestville.

Their list of value-added products and activities is too huge to list and is worth a visit to experience. They make scarecrows from recycled wood and gourds, they paint pumpkins on-demand, birdhouses, harvest baskets, etc. Don’t forget the corn maze, hay rack ride, corn pool, water-pump duck races, etc.

Agri-tourism, agri-tainment, whatever the title, is growing as people long for a connection to farms, the countryside, and their food. Harvestville Farm in Donnellson is a great example of how a family can create an enjoyable, profitable, country business while also keeping it real.