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Seed Company Sponsor - Children Visit Pumpkin Patch
What's Halloween without a pumpkin patch and a gourd to carve with a scary face?

Kindergartners of Mesa Verde School, about 90 of them, found out on Friday when they visited a large vegetable seed company in Modesto, learned a lot about pumpkin seeds and carried home a pumpkin they selected from its grounds.

Harris Moran Seed Company on Codoni Avenue is associated with HM Clause based in France, which grows vegetable seed varieties in more than 100 countries and operates on all the continents. It is among the top four seed growers in the world, with more than $300 million in turnover and 1,300 employees and also is a member of the international agricultural cooperative Group Limagrain.

"Educational field trips are a way to appreciate nature's bounty and to provide fun and a memorable experience," said Dennis Choate, vice president of production and operations for Harris Moran. "Plus the children walk away with a Halloween pumpkin of their choice - picked right off the vine - not off a supermarket shelf."

Harris Moran kicks off these hands-on agricultural trips for school children with a talk about the life cycle of the pumpkin seed, the food and water it needs, what it takes to grow and develop. The kindergartners heard about the various stages of pumpkin growth and development from the seed to the final, familiar orange sphere.

Shepherded by Amber Ryan and other teachers and parents, they then were let loose in the adjacent patch to roam around and find their perfect pumpkin, which a company employee then cut from the vine for them.

It was tough moving without stumbling among the ridges of earth and pumpkins, especially for those who'd neglected to wear suitable footwear. But it was fun and the children maintained a high level of enthusiasm throughout the adventure.

The trip ended with the children sitting on the parking lot curb to compare pumpkins, have their picture taken, and enjoy cookies and juice provided by the company.

Choate began the pumpkin patch visits shortly after arriving at the Harris Moran Seed Company 10 years ago. His inspiration for the program came from his wife, who is an elementary school teacher, said a company official.

The program is so popular, local area teachers sign up as far in advance as April 1 each year to ensure they will have an opportunity to visit the following year with a new set of students. This year the program, running for three weeks during October has drawn more than 1,500 students. Friday, Oct. 21 was slated to be the last day for the tours.