The "Fall Harvest" Is Upon Us, And Gene Rhodes Is Ready0
Gene "The Pumpkin Man" Rhodes has been in business 57 glorious years tending his 100-acre, centennial (established in 1885) farm situated on M-43 Highway. When driving by in the fall, it's nearly impossible to miss the farm because of all the orange-colored decorations that fill the location on Pumpkin Avenue.
More importantly it's hard to miss Gene dressed in a bright orange hat and shirt calling out auction style the price of all the pumpkins, squashes, and gourds that one might have on their wagon. Gene developed his style based on his knowledge of the market value and incredible eye for how much pumpkins weigh that he claims to be 99.9-percent accurate, as he "sells a product and gives away memories."
When asked what possessed him to become a pumpkin farmer, he starts the conversation with the word "insanity" and then chuckles. Living on the farm that his father and grandfather owned and his love for the color orange, Gene was inspired by the simple fact that he was a caretaker who needed to be at the farm rather than selling his goods at a market.
"Fall Harvest," as Gene refers to it, is obviously his favorite time of the year when he and 10 other folks harvest 15 varieties of pumpkins and squashes. Ever surrounded by the color orange and the shape of a pumpkin, Gene shared that he sleeps nightly in orange sheets, a pumpkin-decorated bedspread, and eats at a pumpkin shaped table every evening.
He also does not hesitate to say that there is nowhere else he'd rather live, along with his love of the seasons and the people he enjoys meeting yearly. Gene also enjoys giving back his love to the community by volunteering weekly at the West Michigan Cancer Center and being a proud member of the local Grange community group who get together for music jam sessions and lively conversations.
Gene's been interviewed at least 500 times over the years and when asked if he thought himself famous, politely answers "Yes, just Google me!"
A cross-section of people have enjoyed the memory of picking out their fall decorations and watching their children, curiously watch the man in orange. Mrs. Wolfe's preschool is an annual visitor and one of many groups that make a tradition of visiting the colorful farm decorated with mums that Gene's wife taught him was part of the ambiance and memories he helps create.
Every year Gene shares a book that has a bit of the farms history and recipes collected over the years. He also is proud of the children's book that his wife Carol wrote entitled Gene the Pumpkin Man.
When asked how he feels as the season comes to a close, Gene simply states "I'm a grateful man, who sighs a bit of relief of satisfaction and feelings of being extremely blessed. Alleluia!"