The recent 100-degree weather doesn’t exactly inspire scarf wearing, leaf pile jumping or the imbibing of piping hot pumpkin spice lattes.
But October has arrived, and while it might not feel that way (blame the Indian summer, global warming or the fact we live in California), harvest hoopla abounds as local farms roll out their fall-themed attractions.
Whether it’s taking a leisurely hay ride with the kids, selecting a wacky looking squash for the dining room table centerpiece, sinking your teeth into a caramel apple or getting hopelessly lost in a corn maze, South County and Hollister are teeming with agritourism awesomeness.
So put your gameface on: It’s pumpkin patch time.
If the whimsical selection of more than 20 heirloom pumpkin varieties isn’t titillating enough, the rustic red barn brimming with “antiques, collectibles and good stuff” (not to mention a very friendly cat) makes for treasure hunting fun. Seventh-generation owners Debbie and Jim Hoey open their 1854 horse barn-turned-store after 2 p.m. on Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, or by appointment. Select from an assortment of pumpkins in vibrant hues such as butter yellow, moon white, forest green and rouge red, plus wacky looking gourds and other squash oddities like the “speckled swans,” “warty guys” or “Turk’s turbin” – which are “so ugly, they’re cute,” Debbie chuckles. Consider nabbing a trio of cheerful mini-pumpkins ($1 each; the orange ones are called “Baby Bears;” the white ones “Baby Boos”) which add a touch of harvest happiness to your work desk when you’re stuck inside on a gorgeous fall day.
Located: 2480 Hecker Pass Road. Call: (408) 309-1179. Visit: www.thebarnathoeyranch.com.
UESUGI FARMS PUMPKIN PARK
Uesugi is South County’s magical Disneyland of pumpkins, where harvest is a hallowed time of year.
Between the “splenderifice site” of the epic 4,000-plus pumpkin pyramid, the living pumpkin lab, the pumpkin blasters (which allow you to shoot at targets with mini pumpkins flying at speeds of up to 90 mph) and the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off (last year’s winner was a hefty 1,610 pounds, this year it’s Oct. 13), you’ll walk away seeing orange stars.
And that’s just the beginning. Other features include Pumpkin Pete’s Enchanted Hayride that meanders through glittering sunflower and marigold fields, nostalgic train rides, the silly cow train ride, Bootsie’s Honey Hut (where a beekeeper brings honey and a hive for kids to observe), a hayride to Butterfly Valley, a carousel, Kayla’s 20-acre corn maze, pony rides, petting corral, hay jump and live entertainment, red barn marketplace and giant dining tent. Days and hours of operations vary. Don’t miss the 22nd annual Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13.
Located: 14485 Monterey Road in San Martin. Call: (408) 778-7225. Visit: www.uesugifarms.com.
This certified organic, family-owned 1929 farm off Churchill Road in Hollister does a fabulous job of catering to visitors of all ages. Children are treated to their own fall adventure in the Kiddy Corral, which features the Spookley Maze, corn box, chalkboard house, sliding and haystack jumping, bouncing horses, old-fashioned corn grinder, swinging bridge, pedal tractors, a mining sluice, the ugly pumpkin slingshot, snack shack, giant jumping pillow, belly bouncer, “pedal karts,” a cow train and “fishing” for goats (where kids can feed cornstalks to goats). Teens and adults can get their thrills from the Maniac Maze, which features a game map with 27 mystery spots, and the sinister haunted Conover Mystery Ranch located deep in the cornfield (open on nights and weekends during October). This month, the farm is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday, and from 6 p.m. to midnight on weekends and Oct. 31.
Swank features a you-pick pumpkin patch and sells 21 varieties of pumpkins, plus gourds and Indian corn, making this “little piece of heaven” a great place to stock up on fall ornamentals and seasonal decorations. Do yourself a favor and visit their website to get Swank Farms’ original recipe for Apple Stuffed Mini Pumpkins.
Located: 2600 San Felipe Road in Hollister. Call: (831) 637-4704. Visit: www.swankfarms.com.
Everything at LJB Farms is sold out of an old barn that was operated almost a century ago by Brent Bonino’s great-grandfather, who moved to San Martin in 1917. Beyond their pumpkin patch, squash and decorative corn stalks, LJB has an assortment of seasonal vegetables and lip-licking goodies like caramel corn and a rainbow of dried fruits. They’ve also got great pricing ($5 each) on various pumpkin varieties including Queensland blue, warty, speckled hound, Cinderella and local butternut squash (yum!). Bonino also carries a cute-as-a-button line of preserves called Stacey’s Jalapeno Jellies, which are crafted in small batches from locally grown fruit and made by a family friend. Each is parceled the old-fashioned way in glass mason jars with little squares of colored cloth beneath the lid, available in snappy flavors such as raspberry jalapeno and pineapple habanero. Check out LJB’s website for the online recipe of the month, Cinnamon Baked Apples. Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday.
Located: 585 Fitzgerald Ave. Call: 408-842-9755. Visit: www.ljbfarms.com.
PUMPKIN JUNCTION AT CASA DE FRUTA
Ah, Casa De Fruta - the mother lode of all things delicious: Specialty caramel apples, pumpkin pies, pumpkin truffles, raw/roasted pumpkin seeds, more than 15 flavors of fudge (including pumpkin), pumpkin spice lattes and a cornucopia of seasonal Halloween treats. Pumpkin Junction is currently open to the public and features a pumpkin patch, pumpkin theater, the Black Crowe’s Maze, Casa de Choo Choo, Casa de Carousel and the Miner’s Sluice. Open through Oct. 31 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday.
Located: 10021 Pacheco Pass Highway, Hollister. Call: (408) 842-7248. Visit: www.casadefruta.com.
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