PERU – Never mind that it was pouring out Saturday morning. Rick and Marilee Colpitts had thousands of pumpkins to harvest from their Route 108 farm before the varmints got ’em.

The annual ritual, which attracts volunteer pumpkin picker-uppers of all ages from as far away as Dover-Foxcroft, enables the Colpitts to sell the colorful gourds at their roadside stand to pay their property taxes, and those of Marilee’s dad, the Rev. Glendon Gammon, 80, also of Peru.

This fall, they expect to make enough money to pay the $2,300 to $2,400 tax bill on their late-1700s farmhouse and 20 acres, pay Gammon’s tax of $500 and cover farm expenses.

Annual repairs to their 1957 Massey-Ferguson tractor, used to haul loads of pumpkins and squash, costs a grand or, as Gammon puts it, “$40 for parts and the rest, labor.”

“We’re also getting a wood furnace, because our oil went to $440 a month this year, compared to $220 last year,” Marilee Colpitts said. Next year’s crop sales go toward replacing the roof on their house.

Even though the farm stand didn’t open until Saturday, customers still came by Friday in droves. Among them was the owner of LaFleur’s Restaurant on Route 4 in Jay, who bought a truckload of squash for a benefit dinner for the family of a young man killed in a motorcycle accident, Rick Colpitts said.

Using seeds bought from Johnny’s of Maine and no chemicals, the family grows and sells nine varieties of squash, nine varieties of pumpkins – from really big to small – gourds, multicolored corn and corn stalks. They also sell Wayne Thurston’s maple syrup, hay bales from a family friend from Peru and mums grown by another friend, who trades the colorful flowers for the Colpitts’ pumpkins, which she then sells.

Earlier this week, the family picked hundreds of squash and a few hundred pumpkins to get their roadside stand going.

Marilee Colpitts, 46, handles sales only, because she broke her back in 1979 when she fell 15 feet off a dock onto a rock while working as a 19-year-old missionary in Alaska.

“People think I’m lazy when I don’t get up to carry their pumpkins over to the scale, but I can’t,” she said.

In addition to working toward a master’s degree, she also operates the adjacent private one-room Heritage School for students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Pumpkin sales paid for the school building, too.

Rick Colpitts, 46, who is suffering this year from a bulging disc in his back, is the SAD 39 superintendent, chairs the SAD 21 school board, and is earning a doctorate in administration from the University of Maine at Orono.

On Saturday, Rick Colpitts and four of their seven children joined cousins from Dover-Foxcroft, some of the Colpitts family’s friends from the Fayette Baptist Church and Gammon, picking pumpkins from about seven of their 20 acres.

Normally, Marilee Colpitts said, their twin 19-year-old boys would be helping with the harvest, but they’re on the tail end of a war tour, working seven days a week patrolling roads and providing security outside of Fallujah, Iraq, serving with the U.S. Marines 20th Co. of Topsham since last December.

The Colpitts have been growing and selling pumpkins since 1990 at the farm they bought from Gammon and his wife, Marjorie.

Rick Colpitts said he brought a group of Boston students up that year to get them out in the country, and they planted a bunch of pumpkin seeds before returning. That fall, Colpitts said his father-in-law called asking what he wanted to do with all the pumpkins, something that Colpitts said he’d forgotten about.

“We sold them for $1 each in the front yard and that piqued an idea,” he said.


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