The Vala Family (left to right clockwise): Kyla Vala Shaver, Kelsey Vala, Geoff Fong, Kirsten Vala Fong, Zoe Fong, Jan Vala, Tim Vala, Uriah Shaver, Freya Shaver
Over the years, a trip to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch has become a tradition for many families. As we head into our 30th year of operation, we are proud to welcome a second generation of parents who remember visiting Vala’s when they were children. As thousands of eager guests flood Vala’s Pumpkin Patch in the fall, it’s hard to believe it all started as a small business with a simple vision of creating a family-friendly, farm experience.
Vala’s Pumpkin Patch founder, owner, visionary and farmer, Tim Vala, grew up as a city boy in Omaha, Nebraska. After earning a B.A. Degree in Education from Nebraska Wesleyan University, and having trouble finding a full-time job in the school systems, he had the wild idea that he could become a farmer. Luckily, he came upon some land he could buy a little at a time, and then he bought a tractor that he didn’t know how to drive home, and he planted fruits and vegetables he didn’t know how to grow. But research, self-education and perseverance helped him succeed. Today, Vala’s Pumpkin Patch has grown into a 212-acre operation with nearly 55 acres of pumpkins planted every year.
As the business was growing, every member of the Vala family contributed, providing both special skills and cheap labor. Jan Vala, also a graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan University, worked for many years as a school psychologist in the Omaha Public Schools. At Vala’s, she took on the crucial business roles of marketer, merchandise manager, personnel manager and accountant. Today she works full time for Vala’s Pumpkin Patch, and is known to always remember each of the 600+ employees’ names.
Tim and Jan’s three daughters, Kirsten, Kyla and Kelsey, were always happy to help however they could. Growing up, they spent most of their summers pricing merchandise and toiling on the farm, while they became loyal, hard-working employees every fall. During the 2014 season, all three of the Vala daughters, now grown, will be on hand to help manage the farm operations.
Even as Vala’s Pumpkin Patch has grown, traces of family commitment still linger. This year, trees have been planted in memory of Tim and Jan’s always-supportive and encouraging parents who have passed away: Lois Vala, Ernie Vala and Hazel Smith. Each of the Vala daughters has their favorite food location named after them, Kirsten’s Coffee House, Kyla’s Ice Cream Shop (she actually makes the ice cream!), and Kelsey’s Sweet Shop. And the 600+ “Pumpkin Pickin’ Experts” who make Vala’s possible each fall feel like family for a short time.
Every year we look forward to one whirl-wind month when guests visit Vala’s Pumpkin Patch to experience a spectacular Fall Festival. People love the caramel apples, the hayrack rides, and the Pigtucky Derby Pig Races. But we hope it’s the magical memories and treasured traditions that keep them coming back. We take great pride in our role as a wholesome family entertainment destination and we plan to continue growing and improving year after year.