Uesugi promises return of Pumpkin Park

Uesugi Farms ends farm operations, but says popular patch will open

Alex Goode, 5, picks out his favorite pumpkin in fall of 2017 at the Morgan Hill Pumpkin Park.

The future of Uesugi Farms may be in doubt, but its owners have assured fans of its Morgan Hill Pumpkin Park that the popular attraction would open in the fall of 2019.

GIlroy-based Uesugi Farms had told creditors and announced online in late 2018 that it would be “winding down” its business, plant no spring crops and sell off its trucks, farm equipment and supplies to pay its creditors. A giant farm equipment sale by one creditor, Heritage Bank of Commerce, was advertised last week.

The morning after that news was first reported by this newspaper in its online editions on Jan. 22, the Aiello family posted a notice on the Facebook page of the Pumpkin Park that the venue would be in business in 2019:

“Good morning, everybody. In light of the media frenzy this morning, we want all of you to rest assured that we will be open for business this fall. See you Saturday, Sept. 28!”

There was no additional explanation, and the Aiello family, which has owned Uesugi Farms for 40 years and operated the Pumpkin Park since 1982, did not respond to requests for additional information or comment.

The Uesugi Pumpkin Park, at 14485 Monterey Road, is a seasonal operation that for years has attracted more than 100,000 visitors every October. It is located just inside the southern city limits of Morgan Hill, a mile north of unincorporated San Martin.

Details of the ownership and management of the 2019 version of the Pumpkin Park remained unclear.

The park represents a small portion of the once far-flung vegetable growing business, which included more than 5,000 acres in production in California and Mexico, on both family-owned land and land contracted to other producers.

Uesugi Farms was one of the state’s largest producers of Napa cabbage, pepper and squash.

In addition to money owed its lenders, the company and Aiello family members are the defendants in a lawsuit from a Mexican company which alleged Uesugi Farms owed it $1.4 million in crop payments.

The Packer, a farming industry news site, said San Antonio Horticola SA De CV, a Mexican grower, filed a lawsuit against Uesugi and the Aiellos, “claiming non-payment of more than $1.4 million for vegetables provided during the 2018 season.”

Court documents report that the case is in the midst of mediation efforts, which are to occur before the end of March 2019.

It is the Pumpkin Park, however, not the peppers and cabbage, that is the most recognizable local operation of Uesugi Farms. Generations of families have posed for photos in front of the Pumpkin Pyramid, shot the pumpkin blaster, said hello to Bootsie the Bee in her Honey Hut, ridden a carousel and the Cow Train, or gotten lost in a two-acre Corn Maze.

In March 2018, the Aiello family sold more than 16 acres of land in San Martin, southwest of its Pumpkin Park, to a pair of LLCs associated with local developer William Rocke Garcia. The property sits just outside Morgan Hill’s city limits—the Pumpkin Park is just inside the city boundaries—where the city’s long-term general plan suggests the land is suited for single-family home development.

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