A craving by city dwellers to discover rural roots can help farmers generate extra income, but for Lee County’s Mitch and Dawn Lazenby, it’s also a way to share agriculture’s story.
Mitch bubbles with enthusiasm as he talks about changes that transformed a working farm in 2007 to include an agritourism attraction known as the Cotton Pickin’ Pumpkin Patch. Lazenby Farm is now a popular attraction each fall and year round for families in several surrounding counties.
“First and foremost, we are a working, family farm,” Mitch said, referring to the 1,500 acres where they raise timber, row crops and beef cattle near Auburn. “We started small with the pumpkin patch, and it took off from there. It’s been rewarding for us, but mainly because it allows us to tell our story. We share our farm experiences and have the opportunity to share our values with the people who visit our farm.”
For the Lazenbys, the farm’s agritourism grew to include a 10,000 square-foot heated and cooled meeting facility with restrooms and a warming kitchen. Dubbed “the cotton barn,” the modern structure includes a large stone fireplace that highlights its rustic elegance and country feel. An adjoining 60-by-30 foot open-air pavilion provides outside meeting space. Nearby is a playground, including a slide made from a retired combine. In addition to the pumpkin patch, corn maze and hayrides, the building has become a popular wedding destination and meeting facility.
A stone’s throw from the barn is the Lazenbys’ soybean crop, but it could be cotton, corn or other grains, depending on the year. It’s a perfect backdrop to showcase what a modern-day, working farm looks like, Mitch said.
“The image of Farmer Brown in overalls isn’t the image we want to portray,” he said. “We want our visitors to know we care about what we do, and we take care of the land and our animals.”
Dawn said it’s always been important that the farm is portrayed in an authentic, transparent manner, with education in mind. As guests enjoy a hayride on their way to the pumpkin patch, the Lazenbys have signs that identify crops and livestock along the way. Children can pick cotton, dig peanuts and pull corn, plus see a variety of livestock and laying hens. The Lazenbys’ three children, Jamie Claire, 8, Jamison, 6, and Jonah, 5, do their part, too, welcoming families to the farm each fall. The oldest children often field questions from guests who want to know more about what happens on the farm.
“We decided early on that we didn’t want blow-up jump toys or face painting as part of our farm, although that’s fine if someone else wants to do that,” Dawn said. “We wanted people to see a real farm. In reality, when people come here, we’re selling them a little bit of ourselves.”
The Cotton Pickin’ Pumpkin Patch is a popular attraction for school field trips and attracts church groups, senior citizen groups and families from throughout the area. For hours, admission prices and a full list of attractions, visit LazenbyFarm.com. Click here to find a full list of agritourism attractions.