“We had a corn maze for the first time this year,” Lombardi said. “It did fairly well. Usually they design these things with GPS (Global Positioning System), but we did ours the good old-fashioned way. It was quite a job, especially since we waited until the corn got too tall. That old saying that you’re never too old to learn, well, we’re living proof.” The 140-acre ranch offers a large farm plot filled with onions, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, basil and parsley, with a dividing line of pumpkins growing down the middle to accommodate at least 10 groups a day hoping for a glimpse of farm life during one of Joann’s educational tours. “I ask them what four things I need to grow vegetables and they always remember seeds, water and sunshine,” she said. “So I ask them if I put a seed in my hand with some water and hold it up to the sun, will it grow? They always forget the dirt.” Generations of children have climbed on the fire engine, paddy wagon and fiberglass pumpkins placed around the property, visited the petting zoo (all the animals are visitors from nearby Rolling Thunder Ranch) and roamed the acres of bright orange gourds laid out for them to select the perfect specimen of the world’s largest fruit. On Tuesday morning, only 11 “Big Macs” – oversize pumpkins that would give Martha Stewart a challenge – remained in a stall near a curious emu; wagons and tires offer pint-size varieties; piles of the less-popular varieties – gray Jarsdales, dusty tan Hubbards, butternuts and Turkish turbans – await the November crowds that will prepare them for Thanksgiving tables. “We started working yesterday on next year,” Joann said. “We try to think of what we can make permanent so we don’t have to put it up again. And every year, the rumors go around that we’ve sold the ranch. People call and ask me if we sold and I tell them we did. “Then I ask them how much I got,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “They never can tell me. And right now, I’m ready to do this another year.” Carol Rock, (661) 257-5252 email@example.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “We had a roadside stand selling vegetables, and we would take a tractor tire and fill it up a few times a day with pumpkins. Pretty soon, people were asking if they could have a tour or get a cold drink, so my daughter and her friend got a little cooler and set up next to the stand to sell water and cold drinks.” That enterprising little girl just turned 40, and she and her husband still run the drink concession at the ranch, which sees most of its visitors – thousands of them – during the Halloween season. “We’ve been at this for 36 years now,” Lombardi said. “It’s amazing what can happen when you open a little tiny can of worms.” Floods in January threatened their long-standing livelihood when sections of Bouquet Canyon Road washed away, but county work crews were able to complete repairs sooner than anticipated. Straw bales used for barriers and climbing were soaked and had to be discarded, but the record crowds this season quickly gave the $8,000 worth of bales a well-worn look as if they’d been there the whole time. The ranch remains a family-run enterprise. Bob, 60, and Joann, 59, still work from dawn to dusk with the help of their daughters, Alisia, Julia and Adria and son Rob. Alisia does the bookkeeping, Julia does all the roadside signage, Rob builds props and the train that trundles visitors through the corn and sunflower fields and Adria is the drink concessionaire who also coordinates the popular Scarecrow Alley competition. SAUGUS – They’ve sold thousands of tons of pumpkins over the last 40 years and the 10 tons left Tuesday, the day after Halloween, seems like “not that much” to Joann Lombardi. “We still sell a lot before Thanksgiving for baking and decorations,” Lombardi said. “We have friends who raise cattle, and we give the leftovers to them. The cattle love them. They think it’s like dessert.” Walking through the empty grounds of the family ranch in Saugus, she reminisced about the ranch’s humble beginnings. “It all started with my field trips,” she said. “My daughter was going to Small World preschool, and the kids came over for a tour of the farm. I took them around – there were only about 12 to 15 kids – and I gave each of them a pumpkin to take home. The next year, they wanted to come back, and word-of-mouth started spreading.