Tony Bittel and his son, George, still believe in the honor system.

For the third straight year, the Sorgho farmers have set up an unmanned pumpkin stand in a field on Kentucky 56 just west of the roundabout.

At first, George Bittel said he was admittedly skeptical when his father presented the plan of selling pumpkins without anyone there to monitor the stand.

"I thought that was an awful idea; everybody's going to come, take our pumpkins and we're not going to get paid for them," George Bittel said.

A wooden lockbox has been installed for anyone passing by to drop cash into for anything purchased. Prices of $5 for large pumpkins, $3 for medium pumpkins and $2 for three minis and/or gourds are listed on a chalkboard.

Straw sells for $5 a bale and corn stalks for $10 a bundle, making it a one-stop shop for fall decorations.

"We know approximately how many pumpkins and straw we put out here," George Bittel said. "A lot of people are honest and this honor system has really worked for us. If people took advantage of it, we just wouldn't be able to do it."

The stand is set up on a lot owned by Bellevue Baptist Church. The Bittels donate a percentage of the pumpkin proceeds to the church's youth ministry.

Adam Neel, Bellevue's administrative pastor, said it's an ideal partnership that goes beyond the pumpkin sales.

"They help us take care of the land," Neel said. "... We're infinitely better having the Bittels than not having them. The pumpkins and helping the youth groups is an added bonus."

The Bittels grow their pumpkins on a 2-acre patch, which not only contains the classic orange pumpkins but also white, blue and decorative varieties that come in all shapes and sizes.

The pumpkins were planted around the first of July and will be harvested from now through the end of October.

"This was a really good year for pumpkins, especially if they were on dryer ground," George Bittel said. "Unlike row crops that you plant early, and when we had all that rain, the weather and participation were just about perfect for pumpkins."

Along with the pumpkins, the Bittels have added wooden props with face cutouts for photo opportunities.

George Bittel said the pumpkin stand is more about celebrating the fall than Halloween.

"The whole idea of this is to foster a good environment for the community because fall just has so much meaning in an agriculture community," he said. "Everybody's reaping the harvest, the year's work and going full steam. Toward the end of fall, it's a time to wind down."

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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