Faces in the Crowd: Lori Hedrick

October 21, 2019

Lori Hedrick

Damon DuBois, the Executive Director of the Clare Area Chamber of Commerce, recommended that I interview Lori Hedrick of the “Wild Pumpkin” farm that located at 5799 Beaverton Road in Beaverton. I contacted her on Facebook and arranged an interview a few days later, which took place at a picnic table at the main barn.

Lori was born in Flint in 1971. She attended Kearsley School in Burton, a suburb of Flint, and graduated with honors in 1989. During her high school years she was a member of the Ski Club.

After graduation, she attended the University of Michigan and acquired a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She continued on to Eastern Michigan University and acquired her Master’s Degree in Special Education.

She married her husband, Jeff, in 1991. They have two children: Ryan, 25, who is a welding engineer; and Katie, 23, who will graduate with a Doctorate Degree in Pharmacology in 2021.

Lori began her teaching career in Mt. Morris. She and her family moved to Beaverton in 2000, where Lori taught at Beaverton High School for 3 years. This same year, they bought a 140-acre farm that was owned by the Amish. Of course, the farm was not equipped with electricity or any basic modern conveniences, so they spent the next year making major renovations. In 2001, the farm opened to the public as “Wild Pumpkin,” and this became Lori’s second full-time career.

Sixteen years ago, Lori began teaching (and still teaches) in the Midland Public School under a Postsecondary Transitional Program, in which young adults with special needs are given addition educational time that is intended to improve the student’s success in transitioning from school to adult roles, and it prepares them to work, live, and participate in the community in which they live.

Lori’s typical day at a teacher begins at 5:30 a.m. and ends at 3:00 p.m. When she arrives back home, she ready to start her second career, working at Wild Pumpkin.

What is the basic purpose of the Wild Pumpkin? It’s a farm where Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, and all your kids can have at least two or three hours of intensive fun. It’s a place where families can make memories and enjoy life. It’s a place that offers a wide variety of fun activities for people of all ages. In fact, there is a sign at the entrance that says, “Admission – $5; Making Memories – Priceless.”

Wild Pumpkin has a petting farm that contains goats, sheep, cows, ducks, rabbits, emus, waterfowl, camels, pigs, and probably more that Lori missed in providing this list.

Wild Pumpkin has a 10-acre corn maze that consists of numerous paths that allow you enter but make it difficult to exit. I asked Lori if anyone got lost in it, and she responded, yes, but it’s usually the parents. Children seem to have a knack for finding their way through the maze.

Wild Pumpkin offers a 15-minute wagon ride that tours the farm – an enjoyable experience for both young and old.

It also offers a fully equipped playground for the kids, including swings, slides, and so forth. Even Grandma might want to swing on a swing.

It also offers a Corn Box, which is a box filled with corn in which toys are hidden. Children take their shoes off and try to find the toys.

Finally, there is an upstairs barn that has 1,000 bales of hay arranged so they form a maze in which children enter and find their way out. Lori pointed out that the maze, once you’re in it, is very dark, so it is not recommended for kids who are afraid of the dark.

All of the above items are included in the $5 entry fee.

Wild Pumpkin also sells pumpkins by the pound. They grow 8 acres of pumpkins, and their barn is filled with literally thousands of them. Lori says they sell thousands every day in season.

The place also sells a variety of doughnuts and cider. Lori says they provide about 7,000 doughnuts each day.

There is also a full-service simple lunch available, including items like hot dogs, chili, and so forth.

Lori says that, in season, they also raise red raspberries, black raspberries, blackberries, and asparagus, which they sell at farmer’s markets in Beaverton, Gladwin, and Standish. There is a sign on the roadside where you enter the farm that announces which items are for sale in each season.

Lori says there are many other items for sale on the premises, including candles that they make themselves, honey, eggs, lavender, caramel corn, a variety of jams, maple syrup, sunflowers, and even T-shirts. Local vendors sell craft items and paintings on the farm as well.

This year, Wild Pumpkin opened on September 14th for the fall season. There is a parking lot for 300 cars, and it’s usually packed, especially on weekends. It costs $5 to enter, which includes petting farm, corn maze, wagon ride, playground, corn box, and hay maze. Wild Pumpkin is opened from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Monday through Friday they are open from 12:00 noon to 7:00 p.m. Call (989) 941-9562 for further information

I usually ask interviewees if they have any pets. I didn’t have to this time. Lori had a young cat named Delilah that kept jumping up on my lap many times throughout this interview. Each time, Lori would get her off my lap, set her down away from me, only to see her return again a short time later, sharp claws and all. Lori said Delilah has never acted like this with anyone else.

I asked Lori if she had any pet peeves. She responded that she was somewhat touched by sadness when parents would leave their kids do things by themselves on her farm. They failed to take the opportunity to join them to make memories that would have lasted a lifetime. As she noted, it was not so much a peeve, just a bit of sadness.

Lori said that if she could be anywhere else but here, right this minute, it would be on vacation on a beach with her family.

I asked Lori how she wanted people to remember her. She replied, “Seeing the best in people; always happy and positive.”

Lori believes that the best skills that she brings to her job as a teacher includes developing good relationships, teaching independence, and allowing parents to allow their kids to grow up.

In three words, Lori describes herself as Independent, Dependable, and Honest.

I asked her what she would be happiest doing, when she’s not working. She said she is already happiest when she is working. She and Jeff are both workaholics who absolutely love what they are doing.

Lori expressed a concern that many parents do not spend enough time with their children today to help them become independent members of the community.

I asked Lori to give me a motto she lived by. She replied that she had one that she repeated over and over again to her students: “Be a positive Polly, not a negative Nelly.”

The interview ended. As I walked to my car, Delilah started to follow me. As I got in and closed the car door, I rolled the window down just in time to hear a plaintive “Meow!” Not inside the car, thankfully.

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