Lark Ranch: The ultimate fall experience

Lark

DIVERSIFYING AND ADAPTING to customer demand has helped many family farms stay in business in the modern agriculture age. For Matt Lark, what began as a request by local schools to bring children to his pumpkin patch evolved into a community fall festival of fun.
Lark says it’s all about family. His three boys grew up at Lark Ranch and now work there, ensuring every child experiences the joy and wonder of the farm they love.
Lark Ranch is open from Sept. 19 – Nov. 2 this fall, its 13th season, and attractions include the 15-acre corn maze, hay rides, gemstone treasure mine, petting zoo, zip lining, pony rides, go-karts, jumping pillow, tire mountain, sandbox, bungee trampoline, dinosaur dig, a tree house, and a kids’ straw maze.
New this year are the pioneer village, Orbitron, and mechanical bull. There is something for everyone — and for every age. Several tractors guide hay rides, leaving every 15 minutes from the main barn. Kids’ zip lines are available for those weighing 20 – 75 pounds, and adult zip lines are available for those weighing up to 250 pounds.

The $8 admission cost covers most attractions, but zip lining, go-karts, and the mine have additional fees, as well as the assortment of homemade fall foods available to visitors. A person
could founder at Lark’s with homemade pizza, BBQ ribeye sandwiches, brats, cheesy potatoes, cotton candy, funnel cakes, maple syrup, slushies, and various refreshments on the menu.

More than 40,000 visitors wandered their way through the corn maze last year. This year’s maze design is the Riley Hospital logo, and a portion of admission proceeds will go to Riley. Lark
also donates pumpkins to Riley patients and their families, as well as to the Ronald McDonald House.

Lark enjoys helping others, especially children in the community. When the county football league lost its facility, he offered the use of the farm. Now, on weeknights and Saturdays, another fall tradition is witnessed at Lark Ranch, as children in grades K-12 can be seen in their jerseys, learning teamwork. Of course, if they throw the football too far, it may be claimed by the bordering cornfield.

Matt’s grandfather bought the original 200 acres of the farm in 1967 for $67 an acre. Matt now owns 1,500 acres in three counties, with 600 acres at the Lark Ranch in Martin County and another location in Greenfield. However, he has several family members and close friends who help him manage the ranch, including Rheta Shaw, in charge of admissions, and Brenda Bearden, his “go-to chic.” Brenda says the crew is always excited to begin the season — but exhausted by November.

“It gets bigger and better every year,” she points out.

Lark Ranch is open Fridays 5 – 10, Saturdays noon – 10, and Sundays noon – 6. Neon lights contrast the rustic atmosphere on weekends, turning the miniature turn-of-the-century town into a busy, glowing oasis surrounded by cornfields, sunflowers, pumpkin patches, and an apple orchard. It’s surreal.

Bring the family for a pumpkin, or for an entire evening of fall fun. It’s better than any fair — and less expensive.
You may even want to rent one of Lark’s vacation cabins and stay the weekend. Ask Matt to show you his pride and joy, his rare White American tractor collection. He’s the only person in the world with all four — one of each color.

Lark Ranch is located at 3145 Killion Mill Road in Loogootee, Ind.
Look for signs on Highway 231 north of Highway 50. If you see cornfields, Hoosier longhorns, or neon lights, you’ve probably found it.
For more information on fall activities and attractions, call (812) 295-9000 or go to www.LarkRanch.com.