Agritourism Adds Extra Spice To Family Farms
By Maggie Edwards
A big dream and a sunflower seed sparked the idea for agritourism at Cornutt Farms LLC in Boaz.
“I had an interest in sunflowers after visiting a sunflower patch with a friend,” said Cara Cornutt, 26. “I saw how popular this was and came back to pitch the idea to family.”
The newly minted Auburn University alumna Cara was headed back north, ready to carve out her place on the Marshall County row crop and cattle farm operated by her parents, Rickey and Connie; Rickey’s brother, Chris, and his wife, Kelli; and Chris’s son, Nathan, and his wife, Anna.
In 2018, the multi-generational farm incorporated a U-pick sunflower field and, over time, added a pumpkin patch packed with interactive games and stations.
Nathan brought a wealth of knowledge, too, after graduating from Auburn with a crop science degree in 2020. With a vast understanding of crops and agronomics, Nathan has played a pivotal part in overseeing pumpkin planting and upkeep.
“We normally start planting pumpkins around the first of July,” said Nathan, 23. “Pumpkins must be taken care of constantly and are sprayed every week to help combat insects and high humidity.”
While Nathan has expertise with crops, Cara taps into her degree in agricultural economics to market the booming business
“We started with a 3-acre pumpkin patch,” Cara said. “When we expanded to 15 acres, we knew it was time for us to start taking the pumpkin patch more seriously and step up our game.”
They welcomed 200 visitors to the farm at the start of their U-pick journey. Between midweek field trips and Saturday visitors, they now entertain 7,000 visitors annually, thanks to a short driving distance from nearby urban areas.
In addition to taking home fun-filled memories, each guest at Cornutt Farms carries out a festive pumpkin.
Cornutt Farms strives to implement new attractions each year. Through research and experiments, the Cornutts have successfully added a hayride, basketball activity, petting zoo, corn maze, corn pit and other exhibits for kids of all ages. They’ve also built special infrastructure to satisfy their guests, including a new event building with permanent restrooms.
Fall means harvest season on the farm, as combines roll across acres of soybeans and corn. Adding a crop of pumpkins makes the workload heavier — and more rewarding.
Although the row crop operation is their main income, the family said adding pumpkins has been a great investment.
“Farming is unpredictable,” Rickey said. “The pumpkin patch is a supplement. If the weather changes or we have a bad year of row crops, this would help bring more income into the farm, and more income is critical on a multi-generational farm.”
Rickey and Chris said having Cara and Nathan on the farm brings a special satisfaction.
“It’s a blessing to see and work with them every day,” Chris said. “It’s a privilege many people don’t get. I’m glad we’re able to do it.”
Working on and growing the farm is a dream come true for Nathan, who fondly remembers riding in a combine with his grandfather during harvest.
“To be able to see the fruit of your labor is worth it,” he said. “To carry on the legacy of the American farmer is a good thing.”
Follow @cornuttfarms on Instagram and Facebook to learn more. The pumpkin patch and sunflower field will open Sept. 24 and welcome visitors every Saturday through October.