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October 7, 2010

Lark Ranch attracts many visitors

Owner enjoys making improvements, giving to charity

LOOGOOTEE —  Fall floats throughout the air here.  What child, or for that matter, what adult doesn’t like hayrides, pumpkins and a corn maze? One doesn’t have to go far to get these fall favorites.

Matt Lark, a personal injury attorney during the week at his office in Indianapolis, has also been farming in Martin County for more than 20 years. His family business, Lark Ranch, sits on 600 acres here, where there are fall festivities for all ages. The ranch doubled its attendance from last year on the second week of season in 2010.  

He also owns a second Lark Ranch in Greenfield, Ind.

Lark says he created the ranch to provide the community with affordable and local entertainment. He launched the idea of the ranch to provide educational learning for the area children and allow schools to bring students for field trips. He works, along with help from neighbors and friends, to improve the ranch each year. The ranch is also a home for Lark and his three boys on the weekends. Last year, they experimented with cotton. He wanted to see if the crop would grow in Martin County. It was a success and children were able to see a crop grown, that would otherwise not be accessible in the state.

Some of the this year’s ranch features include: 15-acre corn maze, hay ride, 20-acre pumpkin patch, barnyard animals, buffalo herd, pony rides and a dinosaur dig. Patrons also can interact with a wide variety of animals, including a petting zoo. On the ranch are longhorn cattle, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and a pig. The ranch also has Clydesdale horses this year.   

Attendees might like the u-pick pumpkin patch, pumpkin train ride and u-mine gem rocks.

Lark feels like his ranch is “unique.”

“People usually don’t go places where you can go on a hayride and pick your own pumpkins,” Lark said. Next year, he hopes to add a zip line. The ranch continues to grow and Lark’s focus is to keep people coming year after year.

Lark grows 10 different varieties of pumpkins and 60 varieties of gourds. Food and beverages are available, including hot chocolate and warm apple cider on the cold days. The ranch is also known for its new tenderloins, funnel cakes, and pretzels.

Brenda Hendricks, head cook at Lark Ranch, said she loves feeding the big crowds. She enjoys serving corn on the cob and chili.  “Kettle corn and maples syrup will be some of the new attractions coming next year,” Hendricks said.  

Lark Ranch attracts about 4,000 children annually. “People come from Evansville and Bloomington each year,” Lark said. Schools take advantage of the many activities that are educational for their classes.  Visitors are advised to bring flashlights for after dark hours.  The ranch shines bright after hours with neon lights.

Lark said he enjoys seeing the visitors with smiling faces leaving the ranch. He really loves giving profits from his ranch to local charities and organizations. Profits are donated to the Eastern Food Pantry, St. Vincent de Paul and Martin County Relay for Life. The ranch also donates to Riley Children’s Hospital.

This year, also in cooperation with McDonald’s Restaurant, the ranch will be making donations to the Ronald McDonald House. “Make sure to get your dollar off coupons at McDonald’s and use toward the $6 admission,” explained Lark.

There are discount rates for schools, churches or other organizations.

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