Area Farms Sparkle Like The Leaves-Stop In For Some Fall Fun

By Steve Sears

There’s something to be said for the beauty of visiting a farm during Autumn. And although it appears as things are slowing down with the leaves dropping, activity is picking up in a new way as local farms satisfy family fun needs with hayrides, pumpkin picking, Halloween displays, and more.

So before the chill and frost of this year’s last quarter comes to fruition, embrace the milder weather and head to one of these local area farms. Always visit respective websites for additional information, pricing and schedules prior to visiting.

Alstede Farms (Chester)

Alstede Farms grows more than 250 varieties of fruit and vegetables in more than 600 acres of Preserved Farmland, utilizing sustainable and USDA certified organic growing methods. Open year round, family fun is never at a minimum here.

Consider this cornucopia of fall highlights for families. October is pick-your-own time, with lots of pumpkins and many varieties of apples to be had.  Plan on spending the entire day with a scenic tractor drawn wagon ride, visiting the farm animals, and enjoying weekend live entertainment. On Fridays, Oct. 19 & 26, from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., visitors can view production of homemade cider at Alstede Farms’ cider mill.  

And what would a fall visit to Alstede Farms be without attempting its Corn Maze, this one surrounded by 10 acres of corn fields. For tinier kids, there is a smaller, kiddie-sized corn maze.  This year’s theme is Alstede Fresh, inspiring guests to live and eat healthy with local produce and farm fresh products. The maze is open every day from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and is included in pick-your-own admission.         

Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 19 & 20, 26 & 27, 6 p.m. – 10 p.m., is all about moonlight, gazing at it while at Alstede Farm evening enjoying a Harvest Moon Hayride, traversing acres of scenic farmland in a tractor-drawn wagon ride, stopping at a pumpkin patch, navigating the corn maze via flashlight and warm up by a bonfire while, live music filling the air. Add to this a choice of hot or cold apple cider, the evening’s perfect conclusion.

Also, a very special Pumpkin Pancake Breakfast will take place on Sunday, Oct. 28, from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. It’s all about pumpkins as stacks of pancakes are smothered with a homemade pumpkin topping in an all-you-can-eat breakfast which also features sausage, eggs, bacon, country potatoes and beverages. Breakfast includes admission to pick-your-own fields and orchards, access to the giant corn maze and tractor drawn wagon rides.  

For more information, visit www.alstedefarms.com or call (908) 879-7189.

Donaldson Farms (Hackettstown) –

Donaldson Farm has 500 acres of farmland spread out over Warren County for all to explore. Katie Donaldson calls it low key, farm charm.

“It’s our home,” she says. Donaldson also says the beauty starts prior to arriving at the location. “A lot of people don’t realize that just an hour away, from most points in northern New Jersey, because we’re right before Exit 19 on Route 80, and a beautiful 15-minute ride off of Route 78 from Whitehouse Station, winding beautiful roads with the fall foliage to our farm, and it’s gorgeous.”

October begins peak harvest season, and Donaldson has three divisions.

“There is the farm market, which my husband Greg and myself take care of; and then we have our nursing greenhouse, which is so beautiful this time of year, at the either end of our farm, that’s run by my brother-in-law David; and our wholesale operations which is the hub, the busiest part of our farm right now, which is run by my brother-in-law Gary, his son Justin and our cousin Jeff,” she explains.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, following a gorgeous sunflower season, Donaldson’s kicked off its popular fall family fun.

“We had a little breather between sunflowers and the pumpkins, but now its pick your own pumpkins,  Indian corn, apples – we have over 5,000 apple trees in our orchard,” says Donaldson. “Picking your own Indian corn is kind of a neat thing, too; you have all those jewel tones, you don’t know what you’re going to get until you peel it. Then there’s our 9-acree corn maze, which has an  incredible story behind how we designed it this year, pony rides, hay rides, apple cider donuts, and we have a photo contest that gets very competitive – the scenery is just stunning. It’s just beautiful fresh air family fun.”

The nine-acre corn maze was designed by a very special 11-year-old Chester girl, Anya LaFrancis.

“The corn maze is my nephew’s specialty area on the farm, in addition to everything else that he does, so the past few years we have chosen a non-profit organization to spotlight, a local one; we try to keep it relative to New Jersey,” says Donaldson. “This season in particular I thought it was important to spotlight Tomorrows Children’s Fund; they are out of Hackensack University Medical Center. The farm held a winter contest with a call out to local kids 17 and under to come up with a design via original artwork to “Brighten Someone’s Day.”

LaFrancis, who was diagnosed with leukemia in kindergarten, relapsed in third grade, and was a bone marrow recipient last year, submitted the winning drawing.

“Her actual drawing has been blown up into nine acres, and it’s her actual drawing that is the interactive nine-acre corn maze, which is so cool and very exciting,” she says.

For every person who goes thru the corn maze, $1 is donated to Tomorrows Children’s Fund.

“The most interesting part,” says Donaldson, “is Tanya is actually a TCF kid; her family benefitted from Tomorrow’s Children’s Fund while she was going through all this.”

The corn maze is open seven days a week. Go to www.donaldsonfarms.net for more information.

Ort Farms (Long Valley)

 

The Bartleyville Road-located Ort Farms calls itself “A Place for All Seasons,” and there is no season quite like the fall to visit the 175 acre location to enjoy its corn maze and Fall Festival. 

 

Open Monday – Friday, noon – 6:30 p.m., and on weekends from 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., the 2018 corn maze salutes all active and veteran military folks. Also supported this year are two veteran resources, Operation Chillout and the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. 

 

Take a hayride to the famed Ort Farms pumpkin patch, itself a tradition for more than 30 years. Search for a favorite; there are many to choose from. Also available are friendly farm animals for young and old to greet, pony rides, a Haybale Pyramid and, especially for the kids, a Mini Haybale Maze. 

 

To complete a memorable trip, take home some fresh fruit or vegetables, and maybe even some of Ort Farms superb apple cider donuts.

 

Yes, that’s a lot of activity, but there’s also the view. Ort Farms with Schooley’s Mountain as a backdrop is beautiful in Autumn.

 

Bring a camera. Photo ops abound!

Visit ortfarms.com for more information or call 908-876-3351.

 

Wightman Farms (Morristown)

When most think of Morristown,  they think of the busy Green area. Obviously, Wightman’s Farm is a quieter piece of the township, perhaps a trip back to simpler times.

“Yes, we are only four miles south of downtown Morristown, but it’s like driving to the country,” says Nadine McEvoy, manager of Wightman Farms.

“We sit in a valley, but our hayride road goes along a higher elevation and the views from the top are just spectacular! It’s as if we have our own sightseeing stop along 202. The most scenic and beautiful hayride I have ever been on.”

Wightman Farms, in business since 1922, currently farms approximately 200 acres around Morris County, 70 of which are what may be considered their ‘mainland.’

“Our Farm Market is located at 1111 Mt. Kemble Ave in Morristown which is our main address and where we conduct our retail business and entertainment activities,” she says. “We are constantly evolving to broaden our event offerings so that we become a ‘go to’ place for members of our community.”

Wightman Farms offers a PYO (Pick Your Own) as a Membership Program.

“We grow some of the best and widest variety of fruit in New Jersey,” she says. “By inviting our members back for an entire season, they are able to take advantage of that.”

Fall season important at Wightman, and why: Tradition.

“Many of the families that come here have been doing so for generations,” says McEvoy. “I have grandparents that come along with their adult children because these adult children are now bringing their own children. Generations of families have been coming to Wightman Farms as a part of their family tradition. We take that seriously as these are memories that are passed down. We are a part of these family’s lives. It’s a big responsibility and one we are proud to own.”

There are activities for kids of all ages, big kids included. Wightman gets a lot of group hayride bookings for school trips, Corporate Team Building bookings for the hayride and corn maze, a Giant Corn Maze, Mini Mazeland, and it’s very popular and addictive Pumpkin Slingshot. The winner can pick any size pumpkin they want if they hit the bell in the target field.

“We care about what we do,” she says. “We know this is a business and generating enough money to keep us sustainable throughout the year is what keeps us going. The Fall helps us do that. However, the fact that people are taking time out of their lives to come here is also hugely important. They choose to spend their time with us and it is something that we are grateful for. We appreciate our customers.”

Spend time at Wightman Farms this fall. Visit www.wightmanfarms.com for more details.

 

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