Fall on the Farm
Friday, October 6, 2006
This fall's pumpkin crop may be sparse, but the activities at area pumpkin patches are downright bountiful. Even if you manage to visit two locations every remaining day this month, you'll never get to all the places offering attractions along with the fruits and vegetables of the season.
In October, savvy farmers and nursery purveyors tap into the public's autumn wanderlust by going hog wild with "agri-tainment," the likes of giant corn mazes, scenic hayrides and petting zoos filled with adorable barnyard critters. Farms are getting more innovative with their offerings, introducing irresistible new features, such as an in-ground "jumpin' pillow," kind of like an open-air moon bounce, or a "corn cannon" that launches cobs toward targets in a field.
This season, some farms had to get creative to overcome hardships imposed by Mother Nature. The weird weather -- torrential rain followed by bone-dry days followed by still more torrential rain -- caused many pumpkins to turn out not too big and not too pretty. You'll still find pumpkins at area farm markets, but chances are the plumpest and most colorful ones may be ringers from New York or Pennsylvania. Tropical Storm Ernesto's winds and rains also threatened area corn mazes, but farmers managed to repair damage or find replacement activities such as an obstacle course and, in one case, a maze designed with a "storm's turmoil" theme as a tribute to the destructive tempest.
The following locations, all within a couple of hours of Washington, offer a wide array of settings and choices. Wear comfortable shoes, bring a camera and call ahead to check weather conditions and confirm scheduled events or the availability of attractions. Most sites listed here sell locally grown seasonal produce -- including pumpkins, unless otherwise noted -- along with specialty foods and fall decorations. Leave pets at home, and supervise children carefully, especially at large farms with spread-out play areas. If you're visiting a maze, arrive at least an hour before closing, and adhere to fire marshals' rules against smoking near dried materials.
Anne Arundel County
DOEPKENS FARM 2657 Davidsonville Rd. (Routes 424 and 50), Davidsonville. 410-721-2739. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10 to 6 in October; other hours vary seasonally. Closes Dec. 24 and reopens July 10. This three-generation farm, dating to 1906, specializes in cut flowers, including 85 varieties of mums. The farm's 11th annual mum mural, covering about three-tenths of an acre, blooms in about a week and features a surprise design planted by owner William J. Doepkens. (Last year's multihued peacock tail contained 2,500 plants.)
GREENSTREET GARDENS 391 W. Bay Front Rd., Lothian. 410-867-9500. http:/
HOMESTEAD GARDENS 743 W. Central Ave. (Routes 424 and 214), Davidsonville. 301-261-4550 or 410-798-5000. http:/
KNIGHTONGALE FARM 3924 Solomons Island Rd. (Routes 2 and 424), Harwood/Davidsonville. 443-871-1073. Open Saturdays and Sundays 10 to 5 through Oct. 29. Free highlights at this 90-acre farm -- known as "Home of the Spiders" for its hay-bale arachnids -- include farm animals, pedal tractors and a sandbox filled with kernel corn. A seven-acre patch holds pumpkins on the vine. Other activities, each requiring a $3 fee, include a three-acre corn maze, hayrides and pony rides.
PAPA JOHN'S FARM 8065 New Cut Rd., Severn. Take Route 301 north to Interstate 97 north to Exit 12. At the light at the end of the exit ramp, turn left and look for the big red barn on the left. 410-969-8810. Open Monday-Saturday 9 to 7, Sundays 9 to 6 through Oct. 31; reopens in April. This fourth-generation family vegetable farm with a produce stand offers hayrides to the pick-your-own pumpkin patch Saturdays and Sundays 11 to 4 during October. $6.50 includes a pumpkin. The farm also has animals to view.
PUMPHREY'S FARM 8220 Veterans Hwy., Millersville. Take Route 50 east to Interstate 97 north to Exit 10, Veterans Highway. Go north for about 2 1/2 miles; farm is on the left. 410-987-4290. Open daily 9 to 7 in October; other hours vary seasonally. The farm closes from Thanksgiving until June. Pick pumpkins, all you can carry for $15.
HUBER'S FAMILY PRODUCE FARM 11898 Philadelphia Rd. (Route 7 and Raphael Road), Bradshaw. 410-679-1948 or 410-679-1941. http:/
NORTH RUN FARM 1703 Greenspring Valley Rd., Stevenson. 410-241-3392. http:/