I think I may have said I wasn’t going to do a column on pumpkin patches and apple picking. However, that was before I dug deeper and looked at these seasonal traditions through a new lens.
You see, I am experiencing a bit of parent rewind, so to speak. I have three kids, ages 24, 20 and 5. I have gone on my share of autumn class trips and hayrides; I have picked pumpkins and visited haunted houses. When my boys were young, these visits were all about kids and the venues focused more on their age group. Now, when you say apple picking or pumpkin patch, it is, from my recent perspective, very different. The farms I have gone to are all about history, sustainability, health/wellness and ingenuity and offer a year-round, rather than only a seasonal, experience. Here in the Hudson Valley there are numerous choices to participate in the quintessential fall trek to choose your pumpkin and pick apples for pie. Admittedly, narrowing down my favorite diversions for this week was not easy, but I managed and here they are:
Meadowbrook Farm Market
29 Old Meyers Corners Road, Wappingers Falls, N.Y.
This farm checks every box: apples, pumpkins, cider, hardy mums, farm animals, history and more. Meadowbrook Farm has been in business for more than 70 years and now is in its third generation of family ownership. There is a well-stocked market featuring its signature salsa and classic apple cider donuts. This year’s buzz is all about Beacon Apple Brandy, made locally at Denning’s Point Distillery in Beacon using apples exclusively from Meadowbrook Farm.
Why I love it:
Because there is something for everyone here: pumpkins and charming animals for kids, a great selection of local fresh seasonal produce and craft brandy for adults. Because one of my standards for my Diversions excursions is awesome customer service and Meadowbrook does not disappoint. Because I am so excited about the collaboration of the distillery and the farm.
Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm
1335 White Hill Road, Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
Full disclosure: I did visit Wilkens on a preschool class trip years ago and I am glad they still provide the pumpkin picking wagon ride! It’s still a great activity. But, as I said earlier, now I look for more at the farm and it’s all here: pumpkins, apples, fresh produce, hardy mums, bakery and gift shop, cider and apple cider donuts, along with history and sustainability. This year marks the 101st year of harvest at this family owned agri-business. What is extra cool? The winery! White Hill Vineyard, along with the tasting room, is the brainchild of the granddaughters of Johnny Wilkens, who ran the farm from 1949-1995.
Why I love it:
Because the farm is run by third and fourth generations of the same family. Because as with all my picks, there is something for everyone, but also because of the expansion into the vineyard and wine business! I encourage you to read the backstory of the winery if you can’t visit; it is totally inspiring.
136 Lounsbury Road, Ridgefield, Conn.
This certified organic family-owned farm and market is a model of sustainability and commitment to the local agri-economy that is so important now. At The Hickories there are hayrides and pumpkin patch celebrations and more than 20 varieties of apples to pick. However, there is so much more, including a robust CSA, seminars, workshops, yoga, animals, tours for all ages that introduce and explore what makes this unique farm and its techniques that are such an example of innovation and respect for the land. There is an honor-system farmstand, a market featuring produce, food and wool fromThe Hickories flock, among other treats.
Why I love it:
Because it is not just experiential, but deeply instructional for every age and stage of life. A visit to The Hickories will become a relationship - with the farm, the land and those who are the stewards of the physical location and the organic, sustainable farm movement. Because fall is the perfect season to introduce our children to the bounty of our land even if it begins with pumpkins and apples.