A few years ago, two neighboring families looked at the area where their two properties adjoined and marveled at the beauty of it. They decided to join forces and create a fall destination just outside Midlothian. And thus was born Shadow Creek Pumpkin Farm.

Now in its third year, the farm has become a popular autumnal fixture in northwest Ellis County. Each Saturday and Sunday until the end of October, the farm opens its gates to welcome families for a daylong rustic outdoor experience. Shadow Creek also will open during the week for field trips and other special events.

“We like to think that we’re an authentic fall farm family experience,” said Amber Knott, who with her husband Dale owns part of the farm along with neighbors Layne and Sarah Nunes. “We’re out here in the middle of about 250 acres of farmland that’s been untouched by the development that’s happening in town. It’s a special piece of property and we love opening it up to families.”

Knott said on one field trip, a teacher told her that on the STAAR test there was a question about cows, and most of her students have never seen a cow.

“There are lots of kids who’ve never seen a tractor,” she said. “They’ve never seen farm animals and they’ve never seen things that we get to see and experience every day. Culturally, the fall is the time of harvest and we celebrate a lot of that.”

The farm is located down a mile-long gravel driveway at 1530 Indian Creek Drive, about five miles south of the 14th Street exit off the U.S. 287 bypass.

Opening hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays through Oct. 28.

For a $10 admission, families can get unlimited hay rides and trips through a corn maze, play numerous games, ride a hay hill slide — and take lots and lots of pictures. Also, Doonan Cattle Company Confections will be offering its treats for sale, and Pecos Pete’s Natural Tea & Soda Co. will have its wares on site as well. And of course, pumpkins and gourds of many varieties can be bought.

The first two years of the farm experienced both ends of the success spectrum. The debut season in 2017 was a massive hit, but bad weather last year severely limited operations.

“The first year we opened up and said, let’s see if anybody comes, and about 25,000 people came out,” Knott said. “Last year we flooded a week before we were supposed to open. It was a crazy fall. We got everything rebuilt and had people come out and help us open back up, but it rained the whole season and we were only able to be open two days out of the year. So this is our third year, but really only our full second year.”

This year, the unusually hot early fall has kept the crowds down, but the farm’s 15 acres of shaded creek bed gives the appropriately-named Shadow Creek an advantage over other pumpkin farms in the North Texas area, which are largely unshaded pasture. This week’s long-awaited cool snap also should jump-start attendance beginning this weekend.

“People were all over social media saying we’re coming as soon as it cools off a little bit,” Knott said. “The community has been really supportive of us, and we’ve got families who come every year as their tradition.”

The farm has a staff of about 20 people who help, but Knott said her husband Dale and Layne Nunes still do a lot of the physical work on the farm while she and Sarah Nunes help out with the logistics.

The farm is also available the other 11 months of the year for corporate events, church campouts, weddings, photography shoots and the like.

“The community is begging us to do Christmas,” Amber Knott said. “I think if we can figure out how to get through the fall, we’re open to things. My husband retires as an airline pilot next year, and we’re always looking for ways to grow what we do. Whatever we want to do, we want to do it well. We want to master the fall first.”

Shadow Creek is popular with families from all over the Metroplex, but local residents are beginning to discover the farm as well.

“It’s our local families in Ellis County that are the reason why we opened,” Knott said. “We know a lot of young families, and we knew a lot of families were driving up north or down south. There are about five other pumpkin farms within a 60-mile radius of us basically, and they’re all driving to get to these places. We have such a concentration of young families in the Ellis County area. It’s really fun to have those local people here because they’re kind of what instigated us to want to open here.”