From grief to a celebration of life; How founder of Onward Acres honors her mother’s memory

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MILLER, Mo. – Turning grief into a celebration of life. This week, Ozarks First’s David Chasanov visited Onward Acres, a pumpkin patch in Miller. This is also where the founder, Sarah Larsen, honors her mother’s memory.

“Our family farm here in Lawrence County was settled by our great, great grandfather just after the Civil War,” Larsen said. “It’s really a beautiful beginning.”

Larsen’s great, great grandfather served in the Civil War.

“[He] came back after the war after falling in love with a local woman here,” Larsen said. “And, settled a piece of land just a couple miles [away].”

Sarah says the farm became home to beauty and love for years to come. But, tragedy stopped that in its tracks.

“My grandfather’s mother died when he was eight,” Larsen said.

And in 1983, Sarah’s mom died in a car accident.

“I was seven,” Larsen said. “The thing I remember the most is just what a great friend she was. What a great community member she was. It’s hard to experience a tragedy like that and to keep ushering life into what you’re doing.”

She says the healing process will never end. But, last year she thought of something to make grieving a bit easier: turning her farm into a pumpkin patch.

“To open our farm to the public is a way for us to heal,” Larsen said. “To bring life out of tragedy.”

Sarah named the patch Onward Acres, which she says means a lot – especially in 2020.

“Grief, loss, sorrow,” Larsen said. “Those realities have become very close to home for a lot of us. What we want to represent here, and that is where to find joy, where to find hope in the midst of those challenges.”

A mission that motivated her to donate bins of blue doll pumpkins to the Lost & Found Grief Center.

“They knew that we had blue in our logo,” Chief Operating Officer Tasha Ganson said. “They really wanted to help us recognize children’s grief awareness month, and provide something positive for our families that are coming here.”

The pumpkins can be decorated. Ganson says so far, families have loved it.

“I think it could just be a small glimmer of hope,” Ganson said. “This is a tough time of year for a lot of people. The more normalcy we can bring back to these families the better.”

Larsen says it means a lot to be able to help out.

“To now be able to support an organization in Springfield that its very mission is supporting families and children who have gone through tragedies like we did, it’s incredibly meaningful,” Larsen said.

At Onward Acres, LLC, guests can only buy tickets online. Hand sanitizing stations are all over the farm. Masks are encouraged, but not required. Larsen says she encourages visitors to do what’s best for them and their family. At the patch, only 50 people can visit at a time.

“Our farm guests will not experience overcrowding,” Larsen said. “We have over 20 acres of our 13 varieties of pumpkins, 15 acres of which are jackolanterns on the vine. We have plenty of room and plenty of pumpkins for families in the Ozarks.”

For those who are in a vulnerable category, but still want pumpkins, Onward Acres created an online store on its website where varieties can be pre-ordered for pick-up at its farm.

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