Excuse the alliteration, but I just came back from visiting a local farm, and I’m feeling frivolous from the fresh air and sugar-frosted apple fritters. After climbing on a tractor to pose for a family picture (which ended up being another “just me” picture because my adolescent sons pretended not to know me and my husband took the photo), we trekked through luscious mud to pick two robust pumpkins. I commented to a farm staff member that it wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded, and she laughed. “This is just a lull! Believe me!”
Welcome to the season of pumpkinlands, harvest fests, giant mazes, haunted hayrides, and sweet cider doughnuts. Today at the farm, red-orange maple trees added a spark of contrast to the cloudless blue sky. Bees hovered around bushels of apples. And each of the hundreds of pumpkins waited in the field for that special someone to appreciate its beauty and uniqueness, not to mention its Jack-O-Lantern potential.
If you’re still searching for The Pumpkin or are in need of some fresh-pressed apple cider, you have a number of options in the Greater Philadelphia area:
Maple Acres Farm is nestled in Plymouth Meeting, PA, across from the Harriet Wetherill Park. This family-run farm offers pumpkin picking, hayrides, a farm market of freshly picked vegetables, local dairy products, and gifts and garden items; a barnyard, birthday party packages, and pick-your-own zinnias until the first frost. On weekends in October, there’s an educational tour that makes connections from farm to table. Come November 3rd, there will be some Pumpkin Chuckin’ involving left-over pumpkins and launching techniques.
Merrymead Farm, is located in Worcester Township in Montgomery County. It’s a family-owned and operated working dairy farm and farm market. Enjoy their homemade ice cream and bakery. Merrymead offers pumpkin picking, a market of local produce, honey, beef and pork products, hayrides, a corn maze, and birthday parties.
Kohler Farms, located on Limekiln Pike in Horsham Township, offers a family-owned and operated farm market and greenhouses with pumpkin picking, hayrides, a barnyard, a corn maze, birthday parties, and you might even see Clifford and SpongeBob taking in some country air between 11 am and 3 pm on Saturdays in October!
Linvilla Orchards, located in Media, PA, is a family- operated 300-acre farm “dedicated to agriculture, entertainment and education.” During September and October, the fields transform into Pumpkinland, where there is pumpkin picking, a straw bale, cornfield maze, hayrides, “The Playland Express Train,” pony rides, face painting, barnyard animals, fishing in Orchard Lake, and a playground. In addition to the Garden Center, the bakery (apple cider doughnuts and over 40 varieties of pie) and Linvilla Grill, there is The Farm Market, which offers gourmet foods, fresh apple cider, fresh milk and eggs, select cheeses, premium ice cream, candies, gift items, and fresh produce.
Shadybrook Farm, in Yardley, PA, is home to The PumpkinFest and–gasp, The HorrorFest! It’s a family-run farm that offers pumpkin picking, hayrides, haunted hayrides, barnyard animals, a corn maze, and birthday parties. The Farm Market carries fresh produce, deli, dairy, garden supplies, and gift items. It’s home to Uncle Dave’s Homemade Ice Cream and features locally made Rose Bank Wines.
Nonesuch Farms, in Buckingham, PA, is a family-owned farm and home of The Pumpkin Festival, where there are pick-your-own pumpkins, live Country music, hayrides, pony rides, face painting, a Tot Train Ride, and hot cider. Their festival menu features local businesses. In the market, you’ll find organic produce, dairy items, a full-service meat shop (stocking the farm-raised Angus beef), and fresh baked pies and bread.
The Longview Center for Agriculture (formerly Willow Creek Orchards), in Collegeville, PA, is hosting Fall 2012 Harvest Weekends through Greener Partners, a nonprofit organization promoting sustainable farming and farm-based education to connect families in greater Philadelphia with farmers, the environment, and each other. You can pick your own pumpkins until after The World’s Greatest Farmer Showdown on November 4th. There’s live music every Saturday from 11am to 2pm until October 27th. The farm also offers Farm Wagon Tours, a pumpkin painting & carving station on Saturdays and Sundays, kids’ scavenger hunts, a hay mountain, and baskets available for picnics. The Market features fruits and vegetables grown on the farm and from area producers. It includes meat and dairy products, apple cider slushies, baked goods, pantry items, bulk food items (dried goods), books, and turkeys, hams, and other seasonal items. The monthly Farm Sprouts connects preschool-aged children to farm and garden relationships. On November 4th, The World’s Greatest Farmer Showdown will bring local farm teams together to compete in contests such as the Pumpkin Shot Put, Wheelbarrow Obstacle Course, and a farmer-led harvesting competition!
Terhune Orchards (www.terhuneorchards.com) on Cold Soil Road in Princeton, NJ, is a family-run farm that offers pumpkin picking, apple picking, pony rides, wagon rides, the Corn Stalk Maze, live music, and a barnyard of farm animals. In addition to the Farm Store and Bakery, there is a vineyard and winery tasting room in the historic 150-year-old barn. The Farm Walking Trail captures wonders of the seasons, bringing visitors close to wildlife and the deciduous forest.
And to prep your little farmers for their adventure, here are some wonderful children’s books about harvest and garm life:
Growing Vegetable Soup, by Lois Ehlert
The Biggest Pumpkin Ever, by Steven Kroll
Picking Apples and Pumpkins, by Amy and Richard Hutchins
Ox Cart Man, by Donald Hall
Farm Morning, by David McPhail
The Midnight Farm, by Reeve Lindbergh
The Usborne Book of Tractors, by Caroline Young