meet the farmer

COUNTRY HAVEN

The Andelins grow family, community, and pumpkins.

WRITTEN BY CHRISTINA NELLEMANN
PHOTO BY ASA GILMORE

meet the farmer

When you think of Spanish Springs in Sparks, you don’t usually think of sprawling farms, but the Andelin family has been farming and ranching on its 100-or-so acres off Pyramid Highway since the 1980s. Currently run by Cameron and Natalie Andelin and their five children, the Andelin Family Farm is a country haven in a fast-developing area.

A family affair

The farm originally was purchased by Cameron’s father, Mark, from the Gaspari family, who had been ranching on the land since the early-1900s. During the last spike in real estate prices, the Andelin phone began to ring and developers asked about purchasing part or all of the family’s acreage. Mark stuck to his guns and kept the land with the family.

“This farm has always been near and dear to him,” Cameron says.

“We feel we have this window of time where it can be what it is,” Natalie adds. “We’re just enjoying it while we can.”

More than pumpkins

While many farms start out producing food and then incorporate agritourism, the Andelins did the opposite. They started their pumpkin patch about seven years ago, and the plump, multicolored spheres now take up about six acres of their farm. Other portions of the farm are dedicated to a four-acre corn maze; the stately Red Barn, which was built by Mark, Cameron, and his five brothers; beds of kale, spinach, tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers, and carrots grown for the Great Basin Community Co-op’s DROPP program; and pens and fields for their animals. The Andelins raise a small herd of cows, goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, pigs, bees, and even a llama and two alpacas. In spring, the farm’s popular event, Baby Animal Days, allows families to meet, and even touch or hold, its new baby residents.

Throughout October, the farm buzzes with adults, children, and school groups picking out the perfect pumpkins, roaming the corn maze (this year’s theme is America), riding on hay wagons and the cow train, and playing various games created by Natalie. The ideas for her farm tracks game, beanbag toss, corn maze mystery game, and foam vegetable garden for toddlers came from numerous places.

“Some ideas are original,” Natalie says. “But some I would see at a children’s museum in Utah, or another pumpkin patch, or Apple Hill, and I would want to have that feel of a family place with tons of things to do, where people can come and spend half the day.”

Even the five Andelin children get in on the act and create haunted attractions in the corn maze and around the farm for Halloween. This year’s Corn Creepers event will take place in the towering rows of the corn maze, and farm guests can board a paintball bus and shoot at stationary targets during the day or zombies at night.

“Our farm is unique in that we run it as a family, our kids help us, we involve friends, and we employ youth in the community,” Cameron says. “It’s truly a family business.”

Christina Nellemann is a writer living in Washoe Valley. She was charmed by the Andelin family, their animals, and that beautiful red barn.

For details, visit www.Andelinfamilyfarm.com.

RESOURCES

The Andelin Family Farm sells seasonal vegetables from the farm or through the Distributors of Regional and Organic Produce & Products (DROPP) program at the Great Basin Community Food Co-op in Reno. Cuts of meat and eggs can be purchased directly from the farm.

Pumpkin patch open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mon. – Sat. Closes at 4 p.m. on Thurs.

$7 per person, free for children younger than age 1

Corn maze open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mon. – Sat.

$7 per person, free for children 3 years old and under

What grows here?

The Andelin family tends many varieties of pumpkins and most can be grown in the Reno-Tahoe area.

Pumpkins for baking and cooking

Sugar/pumpkin pie
This versatile pumpkin is the best one for baking because it has thicker flesh than other varieties, with a sweeter, richer flavor.

Cinderella, or rouge vif d’etampes
A reddish-orange, large, flat pumpkin with a sweet, light-colored pulp that is beautiful for decorating and great for baking and soup

Jack-o’-Lantern and decorative pumpkins

Sorcerer
A high-producing, medium-sized jack-o’-lantern

Wolf
An impressive, thick-skinned, large jack-o’-lantern with a huge stem

Big Doris
A beautiful, large jack-o’-lantern that grows well in our climate

Jarrahdale
A decorative French pumpkin that is sage green in color and has deep ribbing

Lumina
A thin-skinned, beautiful, white pumpkin that turns slightly greenish or bluish once ripe. Makes a nice decoration.

Snowball
A bright-white, smaller pumpkin that has smooth skin and is more gourdlike

Polar bear
A huge, white, thin-skinned pumpkin. “The largest one we grew this year was 64 pounds!” Natalie says.

Jack-be-little, baby boo, lil’ pump-ke-mon
These mini pumpkins can fit in the palm of your hand; jack-be-littles are orange, baby boos are white, and lil’ pump-ke-mons are white with orange vertical stripes.

Speckled hound
A smaller, flatter pumpkin with deep ribbing and pink-and-green splotches or streaks

Pink porcelain doll
A light-pink pumpkin that’s thick and dense, running medium to large in size

“Two dollars of each porcelain doll we sell gets donated to the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation, which supports breast cancer research,” Natalie says.

RECIPE

Soft Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

(courtesy of Natalie Andelin, co-owner, Andelin Family Farm in Sparks. Makes about 4 dozen cookies)

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1 cup butter, room temperature

2 eggs

1½ cups homemade pumpkin purée (see recipe below)

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup nuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and pumpkin and mix thoroughly.

In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Spoon onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Pumpkin Purée
(makes 2 to 3 cups)

1 sugar pumpkin, small

Cut pumpkin in half. Bake halves on baking sheet at 350 degrees F for 45 to 50 minutes until very soft when poked with fork.

When pumpkin is cool, scoop out seeds. Then scoop flesh from skin. It should come off easily.

Mash scooped flesh with potato masher, or pulse in food processor. Add small amount of water if needed, until consistency is that of canned pumpkin. Extra purée may be stored in portions in freezer. 

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