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If you ever wanted to see a family run enterprise in full decision-making mode, come hang out at the Barten kitchen table on a late Sept/early Oct evening. Fran, my lovely mother-in-law, is the ever magnanimous CEO, CFO, COO, and president of Barten Pumpkins, with her 11 children and associated spouses filling in any other job requirement needed. Everyone has opinions, and somehow, they all get played out, listened to, and acted on in this cacophony of beautifully managed chaos. Pumpkin season at the Barten farm is one of the best run enterprises I have encountered to date.

Every Dozinky weekend the Barten family comes together at the family farm in Minnesota to begin the   pumpkin harvest festivities. Delegation and leadership abound. Ever hour is taken advantage of, because when it comes to pumpkins, there is always an opportunity cost for your time. If you take an extra long lunch and leave a load of pumpkins in the field at dark, a frost could take them out that evening.

Since my first Barten pumpkin season in 2008, the operation has grown in dynamism. There is an ever-expanding family fun day, regular games, hay rides, bonfires, and new this year a Pumpkin Palooza. If you need a break from the city, volunteers are always welcome, just come ready to work and with a good sense of humor.

Harvard Business School take note – I found your next case study.

Being married to a farmer has all kinds of benefits. One of those benefits being a brand new appreciation for harvest festivals (until 4 years ago, Thanksgiving was the only harvest festival I knew).

Main St in New Prague packed with onlookers for the 2011 Dozinky parade.

In my husband’s hometown of New Prague, MN, there is an annual tradition of celebrating Dozinky Days, a Czech harvest festival, at the end of every September. I have only been partaking in the tradition now for three years, but let me tell you, it is a sight to see. Main Street gets closed off and the whole town comes out for a party that seems to last non-stop for 2 full days.  Beer gardens, dumplings, sauerkraut, and klotckys (Czech pastries filled with poppy seeds or fruit) seem to be on every corner, while yodeling concerts take place by the chamber of commerce.

Barten Wee-Bee-Littles

To this Virginia girl, it is a true cultural experience made even richer by the fact that I am not just a bystander but a willing participant. Friday night at the festival consists of selling pork burgers at the Barten family stand, a tradition begun by my late father-in-law almost 20 years ago. Then Saturday morning we all venture back out to Main Street to take part in the parade. Orange Barten Pumpkin t-shirts go on (on me they go on over wool long johns, a fleece, and a scarf!) and off we go, handing out thousands of Wee-Bee-Little pumpkins along the way.