Greene Fields Farm, fall fun help Joehl family share their faith

It’s harvest time!
Pumpkin patch, fall fun help Joehl family share their faith
Managing Editor

GREENFIELD — When harvest time comes around every year, Regan and Christie Joehl always find many reasons to be especially thankful.  With five sons and another baby on the way, they know God has blessed them with a fine family, a working farm, and great friends. Now, thanks to an idea they came up with eight years ago, they are now heavily involved in the happy business of pumpkin farming and welcoming thousands of people to their Greene Fields Farm several weekends in the fall, starting this year on Saturday, Sept. 9. 

Members of All Saints Parish in White Hall, Regan and Christie, who were both raised on farms in Illinois, were married in August of 2007 at St. Ambrose Church in Godfrey. Christie says she and her husband have a good life, and that was her life’s dream.  She says she has “always longed for space and a simple life.” “I knew in college that I wanted to marry a farmer, if possible,” Christie said. “Thankfully, I met Regan in college, in a soil science class of all things.”

 “We have eight children,” Regan said. “Two, through miscarriage, are our family’s patron saints, and then there is Nathan (14), Caleb (12), Jeremiah (10), Ryan (8), Jackson (7), and we are pregnant with number eight, due in January.” 

What began in 2016 as a 2.5-acre pumpkin patch, meant mostly to provide the family with affordable pumpkin picking in the fall, has led to an enjoyable and  profitable business venture in Greene Fields Farm. That was also the year the couple decided that Christie should leave her job as a high school agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor to focus on their young family full-time. 

“I knew it would be difficult to afford to go to a pumpkin patch in the fall and having grown pumpkins as a kid, I decided to grow them ourselves,” Regan said. “We had such a good crop that we put it out on social media for our community to come out and pick our extras.” That first-year crop helped the family out financially, so they decided to expand — and expand they did!

“This year our pumpkin patch is 30 acres along with 6,000 mums, two acres of apples, cut flowers, full concessions, and five acres just to park all the cars,” Regan said. “We grow every type of pumpkin, gourd, and squash that I can get seed for; this year we are growing 170 varieties. Every shape and color imaginable and all the way from a 300-pound giant pumpkin to a gourd the size of a ping pong ball. And beyond that, we grow 10 or so varieties of ornamental corn, beautiful zinnias and sunflowers, apples like you’ve never tasted before, not to mention mums in every color you can imagine. God creates amazingly and we do our best to showcase the vast intricacies of His creation, and His love for us, on our farm.” 

Besides the autumn pumpkin, mum, flowers, and ornamental corn business, Regan, who also farms with his father, Tony Joehl, and his brother Drew Joehl, says homesteading is their gig. “We have way too many chickens, Berkshire pigs, a couple rabbits, a few beef cows, and two Jersey dairy cows that Christie and Caleb milk every day,” he said. “The boys each have their own unique interests, and disinterests for that matter, with the animals. While the animals don’t contribute much financially to the farm they do provide abundantly for our family in many ways.” Visitors to the pumpkin patch sometimes like to wander around and see all the animals. 

Regan says pumpkins and mums are well-suited to thrive where they farm, but they certainly don’t grow themselves!  “Just like growing anything else, they come with tons of challenges and having a successful crop is nothing short of a miracle.  A miracle that takes a ton of work,” he said. “I’ve loved growing things since I was a kid and to be honest, I love the battle that it is to have a successful pumpkin season. We are constantly researching, talking with other growers, trying new things, pivoting with the weather, and discerning all the options before us.  And not just in the growing the crop but in marketing it and guiding our business.”

Regan is quick to point out that Greene Fields Farm is all about family and the unique role each member plays in the business. Christie homeschools the boys, and Regan says they have “grown with the farm.” “They are a huge part of everything we do with the pumpkin patch; it’s just so intertwined with our family culture and identity,” he said. “Each one has their own callings within the farm and that’s the beautiful thing about it: the farm provides experiences varied enough to cater to each one of them. The pumpkin patch has been a great gift to our family as a medium to experience so many of the teachings our faith provides us.

“It is a great way to raise a family and we definitely talk about it being a part of their future if that is where they are called,” he said. “The challenge to me, as a father, is to use the farm to help them discover and discern their vocation and not to be trapped or overwhelmed by the demands of the farm. That is the big picture for now. While it’s a ton of work, we are having a lot of fun, and the boys are a huge help.”

Opening their farm and home to visitors is also a leap of faith. “I love that our business is an expression of who God made me to be,” Regan said.  “As a man, and an introverted one at that, I was made to create, and I love that what we can create as a family can speak to others in ways that I can’t otherwise do with words.”

On a busy weekend, the farm welcomes upwards of 5,000 people, Regan says. “Most of our year, especially our fall, revolves around preparing for those big weekends. It is busy! The insanity of fall has really helped us to appreciate and embrace the slower times of winter.” 

Some of the Joehl’s favorite customers are those from who come from the Catholic community. “From the Cursillo community to our clergy, it’s always a great day when you show up. Three of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George (Alton) have been coming for a few years now and when they show up my radio blows up with, ‘The Sisters are here! The Sisters are here!’  Just their presence is  such a joyful witness and brings an energy to the patch that cannot be replicated. Habits, collars, and cassocks are welcome here!

“How cool is it that we get to use pumpkins to preach?” Regan asks. “Our calling to growth of the pumpkin patch has happened in a beautiful parallel with our calling to and growth in our Catholic faith. The farm has been a priceless medium for us to experience our faith together as a family and to be drawn to Christ and His Church. Beyond that, it is our ministry. When you come to our farm you will see Catholic artwork, statues, sayings, and Scripture. You are going to know we are Catholic. 

“Then out in the field you are going to experience God in a way that so many of us have lost touch with; at the very crux of the vastness and intricacy of His creation,” he said. People might not be able to put it into words, he says, but they know they are experiencing something profound. He says his family hopes that, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, God helps each and every person who sets foot of the farm on their journey toward Him.  “Really, it about so much more than pumpkins,” he said. 

“It’s amazing to us, though, how God had been forming Christie and I for this long before we ever knew,” he said. “While we had been focused on other pursuits, He took all of our experiences, education, strengths, and passions and guided us into being pumpkin farmers. It’s amazing how to look back at how God formed us to fulfill this vocation and it’s exciting to look forward to what lies ahead.” 


Want to visit? 

The Greene Fields Farm u-pick pumpkin patch and farm is open weekends from Saturday, Sept. 9 through Sunday, Oct. 22. The hours are Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The farm is also open on Columbus Day, Oct. 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are located at 311 Daum Station Road in Greenfield. 

There is no admission charge to visit the pumpkin patch and parking is provided. Concessions are for sale on-site. 

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“To serve God, support our family and allow our community an exceptional opportunity to experience the awe of God’s creation on the farm we’re entrusted with.” 

Greene Fields Farm mission statement