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Heed the Call of the Pumpkin at these Great Bay Area Pumpkin Farms

pumpkinfield2

Few people can resist the delights offered by a pumpkin farm. They’re wonderful places for urban and suburban families to slow down just enough to feel the turning of the year and maybe try some harvest or other activities from times past. And, of course, there are the pumpkins themselves — jolly orbs that lay in profusion among pastures until you, the visitor, pick the most perfect among them to take home.

With Halloween almost upon us, most pumpkin farms have gone into high gear, with lots of activities over longer hours, and a host of pumpkins still available for the picking. Included in this listing are working farms and special pumpkin patches in the North, East and South Bays.

Note: The 41st Annual Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival takes place October 15-16 this year. Enjoy a parade, entertainment, contests, crafts, food, and displays of the world’s largest pumpkins, before or after visiting a charming South Bay pumpkin farm.

pumpkinvine

South Bay

Half Moon Bay bills itself as the “Pumpkin Capitol of the World” for good reason. Many people know about the yearly Art and Pumpkin Festival. Less well-known is the bounty of area farms, many of which have been in families for generations, along Highways 1 and 92.

Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

This delightful pumpkin patch offers an extremely large variety of pumpkins, all grown on-site. This working farm also features a hay pyramid, scarecrows, play areas, a Native American tipi, cornrows, U-pick sunflowers, and an antique John Deere tractor. The farm is wheelchair-accessible.

See Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm for directions and more information.

Arata’s Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

Open since 1932, Arata’s is one of the oldest working pumpkin farms in the Bay Area. In addition to pumpkins, enjoy pony rides, animals, a hay ride, and a huge hay maze — clearly a labor of love — constructed out of 10,000 bales of hay.

See Arata’s Pumpkin Farm for directions and more information.

Little Creek Ranch Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

Just up the road from Arata’s, Little Creek is a delightful family farm and pumpkin patch suitable for very young children. Pumpkins lay far apart on flat ground, so there are no vines to trip over. The entire pumpkin area is surrounded by low hay bales. There is a play structure and pony rides, along with other animals.

Call Little Creek Ranch at  (650) 726-2765 for directions and more information.

Pastorino Farms, Half Moon Bay

Pastorino Farms dates from the 30s and is known today for its huge assortment of pumpkins, along with its big orange-and-black decorated barn. Pastorino offers train rides around a small track, a jump house, pony rides, and a petting zoo. Hand-made signs that identify the many different types of pumpkins, some of them quite unusual. Also nice is the farm’s large selection of Halloween decorations and kitchen wares.

See Pastorino Farms for directions and more information.

Lemos Farm, Half Moon Bay

A working farm since 1942, this popular, charming spot offers lots of activities for all ages, especially young children. In addition to a good selection of pumpkins, Lemos Farm features pony rides, hay rides, a hay maze, a train for small children, a toddler-oriented play zone, haunted houses for older and younger children, and animals you can feed and pet. Lemos Farm retains a great deal of charm from the South Bay’s rural past.

See Lemos Farm for directions and more information.

pumpkinsign

East Bay

Smith Family Farm, Brentwood

Smith Family Farm has been in the same family for three generations and offers lots of great old-time activities on its large farm. There’s a leisurely tractor-pulled hay ride out to the pumpkin field, a corn maze, a hay maze, displays of antique farm equipment, live entertainment in a barn, a host of animals, and lots of fresh U-pick produce. The farm offers lots of places to picnic and play in a large, varied ranch setting.

See Smith Valley Farm for directions and more information.

Clayton Valley Pumpkin Farm, Clayton

Clayton Valley Pumpkin Farm, at the base of Mount Diablo, features a large variety of pumpkins and squash in all shapes and even colors. This working farm offers lots of fun activities for all ages, including a trackless train, a playland featuring old-fashioned games, and plenty of farm animals. The farm represents a part of the area’s rural past that is largely disappearing.

See Clayton Valley Farm for directions and more information.

Joan’s Farm, Livermore

This large, pretty working farm offers a taste of the Old West: There’s an Old West town, gold panning, antique farm equipment, a museum, and more. There’s also a large corn maze, hay rides, farm animals, and a farmstand with fresh produce for sale.

See Joan’s Farm for directions and more information.

pumpkins

North Bay

Peterson’s Farm, Petaluma

This working farm opens to the public for Halloween. Families may visit on weekends or after 2 on weekdays. In addition to two large, natural pumpkin fields, Peterson’s has lots of animals to feed and pet, including chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, cows, ponies, rabbits, pigs, calves, and a very big but gentle bull known as Wooly Monster. There are also fresh vegetables, flowers, free-range eggs, and an observational bee hive, all in a very intimate farm setting.

See Peterson’s Farm for directions and more information.

Peter Pumpkin Patch, Petaluma

This large, beautifully situated pumpkin farm in the Chileno Valley is also the home of Spring Hill Jersey Cheese. Visitors can milk a cow or dig for potatoes in a potato field, in addition to buying some of the best homemade ice cream around (pumpkin and vanilla) and specialty farmstead cheeses.

See Peter Pumpkin Patch for directions and more information.

Adobe Pumpkin and Flower Farm

This 30-acre farm has thousands of pumpkins and gourds for the picking, along with U-cut zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, and more. Adobe also has a great corn maze, a hay ride, a haunted barn, a jump house, animals, crafts, and food and live entertainment on weekends.

See Adobe Farms for directions and more information.

Nicasio Valley Farms, Nicasio

Along with a large, picturesque organic pumpkin patch, Nicasio Valley Farms offers U-pick strawberries, lots of gourds, and a farmstand featuring a complete array of fresh organic vegetables, as well as eggs, breads and cheeses. There is a hay maze, a jump house, musical entertainment and food for sale.

Call Nicasio Valley Farms at (415) 662-9100 for directions and more information.

Still want more? See Pumpkin Patches, Corn Mazes, Hayrides and More in the San Francisco-Sacramento Area.

Have fun this pumpkin season!

pumpkinantique

Pumpkinbarn

sunflowers

annapumpkin

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Photo Friday: County Fair Pig Race

My family has attended the Sonoma-Marin Fair for as long as we’ve been in this area, nearly 20 years. We’ve visited many other county fairs and even the wonderful California State Fair, but this local, medium-sized one remains our favorite. We love visiting the animals, and the food and craft exhibits, riding our favorite rides. We slowed down a little on the games, not because they’re not fun, but because we already have a ton of stuffed animals. Our new favorite event is a relatively new addition — the Pig Race. The Hambone Express, an outfit out of Arkansas, races little pigs in groups of four around a small track, announcing their names, which are all puns on famous people — Christina Hogulera, Lindsay Loham. Good country fun, this fair never fails to signal the start of our summer.

I hope you’re enjoying your summer fun!

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also enjoy:

This Moment: County Fair Funnel Cake Eating Contest

I have photographed our lovely fair a lot. Last year I did a 3-part series:

Sonoma-Marin Fair: The Animals
Sonoma-Marin Fair: The Food
Sonoma-Marin Fair: The Rides and Games

 

Photo Friday: Serene Spring

My family recently took a Sunday bike ride down a wonderful country road not too far from our home. We saw far fewer cars (and more cows) than bikes, as we wound around the two-lane, experiencing wonderful old ranches, trees beginning to flower, rolling green hills, and the most perfect endless blue sky. All agreed that the day and the outing were superb. Of course, I occasionally held the group up, whipping out the camera to preserve the memory. I’m glad I did. Just looking at this photo puts me at peace.

I hope you’re enjoying a serene season, wherever you are.

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also like:

Photo Friday: World’s Favorite Tulip
Photo Friday: Signs of Spring
First of Spring: Larkspur, CA

Sonoma Marin Fair: The Food

One of the fascinating things about fairs is the way the equipment and entertainment rolls up in trailers and trucks, rolls out onto midways and fields, and rolls on to its next destination. Indeed, it can be quite a sad experience to stand on the midway of a once-busy fair the day after it’s been packed up to move on.

The middle of the fair is something else of course. And in the middle of the midway is the food. Strange, storied, remarkably unhealthy, uniquely American, offered-nowhere-else-in-the-world fair food. And that just covers the food for sale to eat. There are also various food-creating and food-eating contests, which each have their own culture of participation and judging.

Here are some of the offerings from our local Sonoma-Marin Fair. (See these posts for more about the Fair’s Animals and the Fair’s Rides and Games.)

Hubby, “Hamming” (gamming?) it up.

Love the burger cake! Baked by a young person, too.

… And the classic funnel cake eating contest.

Until next year!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Sonoma Marin Fair: The Animals

County and state fairs are wonderful, traditional summer events. They offer down-home fun for people of all ages — rides, carnival games, contests, shows, and farming and animal exhibits. If you’re in California, which has a whopping 58 counties, chances are there’s a county fair near you right now. Even the California State Fair is happening now.

For me, the animal exhibits and contests are at the top of the list of things that make a great fair what it is. As a non-farmer, I can get educated about farm animals and the work and culture of breeding, caring for and showing them. Farmers, breeders and interested youth can also showcase their skills and work. In very rural areas, fairs offer rare opportunities for busy farmers to interact, to show and to see what others are doing.

Animal exhibits have been a part of American county and state fairs ever since 1807, when farmer and mill owner Elkanah Watson showcased his sheep in the public square in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. According to StateFairRecipes.com, he clanged an old ship’s bell to attract attention. His goal was to encourage local farmers to raise Merino sheep, so that his mill would receive superior quality wool. By the late 1800s, county and state fairs were occurring all over the U.S.

Each fair bears the unique imprint of its geographic area. My favorite local county fair is the Sonoma-Marin Fair, which occurs in Petaluma, CA, in late June. I recently posted a pictorial of the fair rides and games. Now it’s time to highlight the animal exhibits.

Of course, the cows are a favorite. We appreciate our weekly delivery of local Straus Creamery milk.

The chicken coop was moved to a bigger, breezier area. It’s always fun to see (and hear) the regal roosters, hens and chickens.

Hog races were a new addition this year. The caller and operation came all the way from Arkansas.

We spent a long time in the sheep and goat barn.

And we took in a Sheep Showmanship competition of 4H and Future Farmers of America youth. We were impressed with the participants’ diligence and sheep handling, as well as with the seriousness of the competition, the obvious work and skill involved, and the sheep themselves. This site explains sheep show judging.

See photos of last year’s fair’s pig showmanship competition and more.

Watch for the final installment about the Sonoma Marin Fair: The Food.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Sonoma Marin Fair: The Rides and Games

I love summer’s county and state fairs, none more than our local Sonoma-Marin Fair, in Petaluma, which has come and gone this year. The Marin fair is closer, and the Sonoma fair bigger, but frankly, this one that we latched onto many years ago (before Anna was even born) is the keeper. It’s a wonderful combination of farm animals and agricultural events; classic rides, games and food; a wide midway for strolling; country performers; and down-home exhibits and contests that recall simpler times when people came to fairs to show their baking and animal-handling prowess and to be exposed to new things.

Here are some photos from last year’s fair. This year, I took so many, that I divided them into sections. Come along and ride the thrilling and classic fair rides and soak up the atmosphere and draw of the traditional fair games on a summer day and dusk in June.

I love this Falling Star sign so much, I took movies of it!

Coming up: Fair farm events and food.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Snapshot: This Moment. County Fair Funnel Cake Eating Contest

{this moment}

A Friday ritual. A photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by Amanda Blake Soule and legions of lovely bloggers.

I hope you’ll be similarly inspired and leave a link with your own “moment.” I’d love to see it.

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful Fourth of July weekend!

Photography by Susan Sachs Lipman

Heed the Call of the Pumpkin: Great Bay Area Pumpkin Farms

pumpkinfield2

Few people can resist the delights offered by a pumpkin farm. They’re wonderful places for urban and suburban families to slow down just enough to feel the turning of the year and maybe try some harvest or other activities from times past. And, of course, there are the pumpkins themselves — jolly orbs that lay in profusion among pastures until you, the visitor, pick the most perfect among them to take home.

With Halloween almost upon us, most pumpkin farms have gone into high gear, with lots of activities over longer hours, and a host of pumpkins still available for the picking. Included in this listing are working farms and special pumpkin patches in the North, East and South Bays.

pumpkinvine

North Bay

Peterson’s Pumpkins and Dried Flowers, Petaluma

This working farm opens to the public for Halloween. Families may visit on weekends or after 2 on weekdays. In addition to two large, natural pumpkin fields, Peterson’s has lots of animals to feed and pet, including chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, cows, ponies, rabbits, pigs, calves, and a very big but gentle bull known as Wooly Monster. There are also fresh vegetables, flowers, free-range eggs, and an observational bee hive, all in a very intimate farm setting.

See the Peterson’s web site for directions and more information.

Peter Pumpkin Patch, Petaluma

This large, beautifully situated pumpkin farm in the Chileno Valley is also the home of Spring Hill Jersey Cheese. Visitors can milk a cow or dig for potatoes in a potato field, in addition to buying some of the best homemade ice cream around (pumpkin and vanilla) and specialty  farmstead cheeses.

See the Peter Pumpkin Patch web site for directions and more information.

Adobe Pumpkin and Flower Farm

This 30-acre farm has thousands of pumpkins and gourds for the picking, along with U-cut zinnias and sunflowers, and vegetables. Adobe also has a great corn maze, a hay ride, a haunted barn, a jump house, animals, crafts, and food and live entertainment on weekends.

See the Adobe Farms web site for directions and more information.

Nicasio Valley Farms, Nicasio

Along with a large, picturesque pumpkin field, Nicasio Valley Farms offers U-pick strawberries, lots of gourds, and a farmstand featuring a complete array of fresh organic vegetables, as well as eggs, breads and cheeses. There is a hay ride, a hay maze and a jump house.

Call Nicasio Valley Farms at (415) 662-9100 for directions and more information.

pumpkinsign

East Bay

Smith Family Farm, Brentwood

Smith Family Farm has been in the same family for three generations and offers lots of great old-time activities on its large farm. There’s a leisurely tractor-pulled hay ride out to the pumpkin field, a corn maze, a hay maze, displays of antique farm equipment, live entertainment in a barn, a host of animals, and lots of fresh U-pick produce. The farm offers lots of places to picnic and play in a large, varied ranch setting.

See the Smith Valley Farm web site for directions and more information.

Clayton Valley Pumpkin Farm, Clayton

Clayton Valley Pumpkin Farm, at the base of Mount Diablo, features a large variety of pumpkins and squash in all shapes and even colors. This working farm offers lots of fun activities for all ages, including a trackless train, a playland featuring old-fashioned games, and plenty of farm animals. The farm represents a part of the area’s rural past that is largely disappearing.

See the Clayton Valley Farm web site for directions and more information.

Joan’s Farm and Pumpkin Patch, Livermore

This large, pretty working farm offers a taste of the Old West: There’s an Old West town, gold panning, antique farm equipment, a museum, and more. There’s also a large corn maze, hay rides, farm animals, and a farmstand with fresh produce for sale.

See the Joan’s Farm web site for directions and more information.

pumpkins

South Bay

Half Moon Bay bills itself as the “Pumpkin Capitol of the World” for good reason. Many people know about its yearly Art and Pumpkin Festival, which occurs each year in mid-October. Less well-known is the bounty of area farms, many of which have been in families for generations, along Highways 1 and 92.

Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

This delightful pumpkin patch offers an extremely large variety of pumpkins, all grown on-site. This working farm also features a hay pyramid, scarecrows, play areas, a Native American tipi, cornrows, U-pick sunflowers, and an antique John Deere tractor. The farm is wheelchair-accessible.

See the Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm web site for directions and more information.

Arata’s Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

Open since 1932, Arata’s is one of the oldest working pumpkin farms in the Bay Area. In addition to pumpkins, enjoy pony rides, animals, a hay ride, and a huge hay maze — clearly a labor of love — constructed out of 10,000 bales of hay.

See the Arata’s Pumpkin Farm web site for directions and more information.

Little Creek Ranch Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

Just up the road from Arata’s, Little Creek is a delightful family farm and pumpkin patch suitable for very young children. Pumpkins lay far apart on flat ground, so there are no vines to trip over. The entire pumpkin area is surrounded by low hay bales. There is a play structure and pony rides, along with other animals.

Call Little Creek Ranch at  (650) 726-2765 for directions and more information.

Pastorino Farms, Half Moon Bay

Pastorino Farms dates from the 30s and is known today for its huge assortment of pumpkins, along with its big orange-and-black decorated barn. Pastorino offers train rides around a small track, a jump house, pony rides, and a petting zoo. Hand-made signs that identify the many different types of pumpkins, some of them quite unusual. Also nice is the farm’s large selection of Halloween decorations and kitchen wares.

See the Pastorino Farms web site for directions and more information.

Lemos Farm, Half Moon Bay

A working farm since 1942, this popular, charming spot offers lots of activities for all ages, especially young children. In addition to a good selection of pumpkins, Lemos Farm features pony rides, hay rides, a hay maze, a train for small children, a toddler-oriented play zone, haunted houses for older and younger children, and animals you can feed and pet. Lemos Farm retains a great deal of charm from the South Bay’s rural past.

See the Lemos Farm web site for directions and more information.

Have fun!

pumpkinantique

Pumpkinbarn

sunflowers

annapumpkin

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Sonoma County Farm Trails Weekend

littlelamb

As if we needed another excuse to get out and enjoy early Fall, September 26-27 is Weekend Along Farm Trails in Sonoma.

Sonoma County Farm Trails is a wonderful group. For 36 years, it has supported sustainable agriculture and provided education and tons of fun, with maps to and information about participating farms that are open to visitors. My family has visited farms for years, in all seasons — picking berries, apples, pumpkins, and zinnias; buying fresh vegetables, honey and eggs; feeding llamas, rabbits, chickens and cows; even making butter and milking cows, the last of which visitors can do at McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma. Wineries, plant nurseries and restaurants are also on the tour.

We saw this newborn calf on one of our farm visits:

calf

It’s just enjoyable to drive along the farm roads from one farm to another. Often, farms are closed to visitors during a typical day, or are only open by appointment. So it’s especially fun when they throw the gates open on Farm Trails Weekend, and you can really go into the many different farms and experience feeding animals, learning about the harvest, meeting farmers, participating in chores, and otherwise enjoying a taste of farm life. You can even get a jump on selecting a pumpkin. Some farms offer hay rides and other activities.

See the Weekend Along Farm Trails site to map your route and plan your visit. You’ll probably want to visit farms that are clustered in one or two areas and plan about an hour per farm visit, or 3-5 farms in a day. Have fun!

(If your area has a similar farm day, let us know.)

sunflowers

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Be a Farmer for a Day at McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma

Friesian-Holstein

When Anna was small, she used to love both to go for drives and to look at cows. The 45-minute drive from our house to McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma also happened to provide the perfect mid-day nap time. So it was that we took plenty of drives to McClelland’s, to watch the cows being milked in the dairy barn.

Now you can do this, too, even without the nap.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a farmer, or if you just want to spend the day on a pretty farm, enjoying farm life,  McClelland’s Dairy in Petaluma is offering families and others that chance, with a special day filled with activities at their family dairy farm.

Participants will start with morning chores — feeding the baby calves from bottles in the nursery, mixing grain for the “mama” cows, and then milking cows, with one-on-one instruction from the farmers. You can sign up for a guided tour, where you’ll learn the history of the multi-generation family farm as well as more about the nursery and cow-milking barn. You can also experience making your own butter from milk.

There are lunches for sale, or bring your own and picnic at the farm.

McClelland’s “From She to Thee Farm Days” will take place Sat.-Sun., September 5-6 and September 26-27.

For more info about events, pricing, and the farm, see: The McClelland’s Dairy Farm web site.

Photo by Keith Weller

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