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Julia’s Fruit Stand Prepares for the 10th Annual Great Pumpkin Festival

08/25/2016 11:00AM ● Published by Melissa Mendonca

Gallery: Julia’s Fruit Stand Prepares for the 10th Annual Great Pumpkin Festival [4 Images] Click any image to expand.

Rolling Out the Pumpkins

September 2016
By Melissa Mendonca
Photos: Kathy Brandt


As summer turns to fall, the vocabulary at Julia’s Fruit Stand in Dairyville turns from heirloom tomatoes and the ripeness of fresh peaches to something a little more colorful. You’ll hear calls for Knuckleheads and Speckled Swans and Goblin’s Eggs. There’s even talk of Long Island Cheese.

The season of pumpkins and gourds is here, and the team at Julia’s is out checking the vines in preparation of the 10th Annual Great Pumpkin Festival, which will be held October 2.

Planting began June 1 and rolled out over a couple of weeks to ensure the dedicated 10 acres on their Tehama County farm will produce right up until Halloween and that young and old will have an opportunity to enjoy the fall tradition of roaming a pumpkin patch. “We have about 20 varieties of pumpkins and gourds,” says Kathy Brandt, who, with husband James, decided 10 years ago to start a pumpkin patch to fill the void of what was once a revered tradition just down the road at Pumpkinland.

“As a kid, there was always a pumpkin patch,” she says, recalling her years as a girl dressing up as Dorothy at the patch, which had a Wizard of Oz theme.

“It extends our seven days a week by two months, but it’s fun,” she says. While pumpkin season is just kicking off, the crew at Julia’s has been working since just before Memorial Day staffing not just the roadside stand, but farmers markets from Yreka to Burney to Susanville and Redding as well as the hometown markets in Red Bluff with their famous peaches and tomatoes.

“This year, for the first time, we have a couple that’s getting married in October and they placed a specific order for specific pumpkins,” says Brandt, noting that she’s excited that her homegrown varieties will be showcased as decorations at a local wedding. “As soon as they were engaged and decided to have a fall wedding, they called us.”

The fruit stand opened in 2001 with a decision to grow a bigger garden and sell the excess on the side of the road, which happens to be the well traveled Highway 99E. “After year two, we planted five acres of peaches,” says Brandt. “We found out pretty quickly that if you didn’t have peaches you weren’t going to sell very much. People want fresh peaches.”

“It took about six years for the popularity of heirloom tomatoes to take off,” she adds, noting that they began planting after hearing from James’ sister, an attorney in San Francisco, that heirloom tomatoes were fetching good money at the farmers markets there.

Since the couple decided to fill the void of a pumpkin patch, they’ve gone out of their way each year to create a bigger and better Great Pumpkin Festival. “You try to one-up everything and it gets harder and harder each year,” says Brandt. Returning this year will be Chad Bushnell as musical entertainment. Studio 530 offers photographs at a fall-themed backdrop, and a carving and decorating station provide hands-on activities for all ages.

Central to the fun are a pumpkin house, which showcases the vibrant colors and shapes of the pumpkins and gourds as walls to the structure, and a giant hay mountain that kids can’t help but explore. “My kids last year were 13, 16 and 9, and as soon as that structure was up, they were on it and playing in it,” Brandt says with a laugh.

“It’s just a fun family day,” she says of the festival. “We’ve never charged admission and we’ve tried our very best to keep the prices really low so it’s affordable. People can pick some pumpkins, take some pictures and enjoy the fall. We want to keep it positive for kids and enjoyable.”

It takes a great deal of human power to run the festival, fruit stand and farmers market booths, and Julia’s has become a legendary first job for many teenagers in the Dairyville/Los Molinos area. This year, the business has 23 teenagers on staff.  “The whole point is to teach them how to work,” says Brandt. “For many of them it’s their first job and for many of them they’ve never had to deal with the public. We hope that learning the people skills now will help them in whatever career they enter. We try to teach them common sense and problem solving.”

While the growing season is a long one at Julia’s, there’s also a lot of play. The after-party of the festival has become legendary for its appreciation of employees. Then, says Brandt, “we close on Halloween and November 1 is a national holiday at the Brandt house. It’s our first day of rest.” •The fruit stand opened in 2001 with a decision to grow a bigger garden and sell the excess on the side of the road, which happens to be the well traveled Highway 99E. “After year two, we planted five acres of peaches,” says Brandt. “We found out pretty quickly that if you didn’t have peaches you weren’t going to sell very much. People want fresh peaches.”

“It took about six years for the popularity of heirloom tomatoes to take off,” she adds, noting that they began planting after hearing from James’ sister, an attorney in San Francisco, that heirloom tomatoes were fetching good money at the farmers markets there.

Since the couple decided to fill the void of a pumpkin patch, they’ve gone out of their way each year to create a bigger and better Great Pumpkin Festival. “You try to one-up everything and it gets harder and harder each year,” says Brandt. Returning this year will be Chad Bushnell as musical entertainment. Studio 530 offers photographs at a fall-themed backdrop, and a carving and decorating station provide hands-on activities for all ages.

Central to the fun are a pumpkin house, which showcases the vibrant colors and shapes of the pumpkins and gourds as walls to the structure, and a giant hay mountain that kids can’t help but explore. “My kids last year were 13, 16 and 9, and as soon as that structure was up, they were on it and playing in it,” Brandt says with a laugh.

“It’s just a fun family day,” she says of the festival. “We’ve never charged admission and we’ve tried our very best to keep the prices really low so it’s affordable. People can pick some pumpkins, take some pictures and enjoy the fall. We want to keep it positive for kids and enjoyable.”

It takes a great deal of human power to run the festival, fruit stand and farmers market booths, and Julia’s has become a legendary first job for many teenagers in the Dairyville/Los Molinos area. This year, the business has 23 teenagers on staff.  “The whole point is to teach them how to work,” says Brandt. “For many of them it’s their first job and for many of them they’ve never had to deal with the public. We hope that learning the people skills now will help them in whatever career they enter. We try to teach them common sense and problem solving.”

While the growing season is a long one at Julia’s, there’s also a lot of play. The after-party of the festival has become legendary for its appreciation of employees. Then, says Brandt, “we close on Halloween and November 1 is a national holiday at the Brandt house. It’s our first day of rest.”


October 2, 11am-3pm

Julia’s Fruit Stand, 11475 Highway 99E, 

Los Molinos/“Downtown Dairyville”

(530) 354-4775

Find Julia’s Fruit Stand on Facebook

Food+Dining, In Print, Life+Leisure, Today Julia's Fruit Stand
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