HASLETT, Mich. (WLNS) — Autumn is primetime at the family-owned Barkham Creek Farms in Haslett.
Since moving to their Haslett homestead in the early-2000s, husband and wife Bob and Jana Barkham have brought family and friends together to cultivate and harvest plump orange pumpkins for the fall season.
But what began as a simple hobby passed down from tradition is now a bona fide cider mill with donuts, cider, pumpkins – and even chrysanthemums – that are enjoyed by not just close friends of the Barkhams, but countless families from the larger East Lansing area and Michigan State Students.
Bob Barkham has worked on pumpkin patches for as long as he can remember. He grew up in Rochester and spent long hours helping at his family’s cider mill, which is still in operation today.
“Growing up in Rochester, we had two cider mills within a mile of our house. So, I thought cider mills were everywhere, like a party store on a corner,” Bob Barkham said. “As kids, probably age 12, my dad would let me leave with a tractor and wagon and sell stuff. It was a good time.”
Bob Barkham moved from Rochester to attend Michigan State University in 1996 and eventually settled in Haslett after getting his landscaping business off the ground in 2000.
Jana Barkham also grew up in in the Rochester area and moved to Haslett with Bob Barkham in 2003 after finishing nursing school.
She recalls the first season spent harvesting and selling pumpkins together as a family back in 2004, while Jana Barkham was pregnant with their first child together.
“It was family and friends. We went through the pumpkin patch, picked them up and put them on the side of the road,” Jana Barkham said.
But as the roadside pumpkin operation began to attract more attention, the Barkhams were asked when they were going to add donuts and cider to the mix and open a full-fledged cider mill.
“The first time we put some out there, we probably sold about $100 worth. I said, ‘Honey, next year we can sell $200 worth!’” Bob Barkham said.
Barkham Creek Farms opened its barndoors for the public and became officially licensed as a cider mill in 2014, and with 100 acres of property, the family has room to grow more pumpkins than they know what to do with.
“I was telling Jana, since we’re selling so many pumpkins, we should add donuts and cider. That way, my children can suffer like I did,” Bob Barkham joked.
Bob Barkham has cheeky nicknames about the wide variety of pumpkins the family grows. He calls the ones covered in bumps, “teenage prom nightmares.” But the most popular remains the classic orange jack-o-lanterns.
As for cider, this year the Barkhams are putting McIntosh, Gala and Cortland apples into the blend.
“It’s kind of a sweet cider. It’s an early season cider. As the season goes on, you get more varieties of apples. Later season apples have a wider flavor,” Bob Barkham said. “My favorite is a Red Golden and Northern Spy blend.
Jana and Bob Barkham also use their cider mill as a place for family-friendly entertainment and gatherings. They’ve got author Jonathan Rand, best known for the “Michigan Chillers” series of books, making an appearance at the farm on Oct. 2 at noon.
With almost a decade of selling pumpkins grown at his family’s Haslett home, Bob Barkham credits the success to a good product and a convenient location on the edge of city limits.
“It’s a good product, and we’re good location-wise. We’re the first farm past city limits. There’s guys that come here from MSU on the campus scooters,” Bob Barkham said.
To keep up with Barkham Creek Farms, including events and hours, visit its Facebook page.