Half Moon Bay locals Danny Lopes and Danny Bretao have taken the reins as owners of Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm in Half Moon Bay, partnering together to run the iconic pumpkin patch and continue traditions.
“We ended up talking with Johnny [Muller] and the owner, and we worked out a deal where we are going to continue on his legacy,” Danny Lopes said.
Located at 850 Cabrillo Highway North in Half Moon Bay, the pumpkin patch was run by John Muller, known as Farmer John, for more than 30 years before he decided to retire and sell the business to “the Dannys” in February. Lopes and Bretao grew up in Half Moon Bay, only a few minutes from the pumpkin patch. As a kid, Lopes would sneak into Muller’s fields to ride bikes and four-wheelers. He officially met Muller at a dinner years later, where he admitted to trespassing and running over his irrigation pipe.
“He’s more than a friend, he’s family to me now, and we get together all the time,” Lopes said.
When initially offered the chance to run the pumpkin farm, Lopes called Bretao to ask if he wanted to split costs and run it together. Bretao immediately agreed, and they reached an agreement with Muller to lead a new era.
“We’ve always been interested in pumpkins and farming, but we’ve never really had a chance to get into it because of finding the land to do it, and this was a great opportunity,” Lopes said.
Lopes enjoys spending time at the patch looking after the livestock and pumpkins and giving kids the chance to also experience traditions like Berner Day, for Bernese mountain dogs, and sitting on the old tractor and hayrides. They have also added new experiences, including planting a sunflower field and having goats, a rescued calf, a donkey and a steer. Both have other jobs, with Lopes a truck driver and Bretao owning a construction company. Family and volunteers also pitch in and support the pumpkin patch.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of learning. Thank God we have had help. We are able to have family and friends guide us, and our foreman providing us with equipment,” Lopes said.
Bretao alternates between his business and working at the pumpkin farm, which ranges from organizing and restocking the pumpkins, picking them from the field, cutting corn and talking to customers.
“It’s nonstop business. There’s always something to do,” he said.
Taking over was relatively straightforward, and they have tried to keep it similar to how Muller ran it. Bretao has been involved with the local pumpkin festival, and he said it was a no-brainer to start running the pumpkin patch.
“We were blessed that he was willing to let us take over his pumpkin patch,” Bretao said. “We love it. Our family and kids all love it. We are all having a blast doing it, and everyone who is there is in a good mood and happy to be out.”
The area is 21 acres total, with 5 acres to grow pumpkins and corn that started in March. The main pumpkin patch has three sections, including areas for animals, pumpkins and the sunflower garden. They expect to sell at least 5,000 pumpkins this season. Pumpkins types available to look at include cinderella, heirlooms, Atlantic giants, jack be little, mini pumpkins, lumina, reds and jahardale, among others. Cornstalks are also available, and traditional events like Bernese Mountain Dog Day will continue. Business hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from through Halloween.
Lopes noted last year was extremely busy as schools were not in session or in-person, with kids flooding to the pumpkin patch. This year, things have calmed down, although, they are now hosting school field trips.
“We are excited to keep it going. Everything has been smooth sailing. We haven’t had any bumps in the road,” Lopes said.
Jerry Bello is an advisor and longtime worker at the pumpkin patch, working with Muller for more than 15 years before helping the two. He helps manages day-to-day operations and advises the two if they have any questions. He believes this upcoming year will be a useful learning experience in their first fall in charge. Bello is glad the two and their families are involved in local farming.
“It’s good to see the young kids get into it,” Bello said.
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