By Sheryl Wiser
Grab your sweaters and muck boots – it’s pumpkin patch time!
For many, the annual pumpkin pilgrimage is all about tromping through the fields on a crisp sunny day with family and friends. However, for many farms like Bi-Zi Farms in Clark County founded back in 1872, it’s more than just a day in the country. “It’s all about celebrating the annual harvest and our farm’s rural heritage,” says fourth generation farmer/owner Peggy Zimmerman.
It’s also about forging a connection to, and appreciation of, diversity in our food system. Forget the monotone orange gourds you’ll find at the supermarket. Part of the fun with on-farm pumpkin picking is discovering a range of heirloom and specialty pumpkins you won’t see in a parking lot, some with names right out of a scary Halloween story!
Alongside the classic bright, orange skinned Jack O’Lantern variety (excellent for carving and roasting seeds) at idyllic Wilderbee Farm in Port Townsend, you’ll find vibrant yellow Owl Eyes (which perch evenly on any surface), small, cream colored Casper pumpkins (great for baking or painting) and the darlings of the squash world – Sugar Pie pumpkins, which keep for months and are the secret to making swoon-worthy pie.
If you fancy bringing home pumpkins with interesting names and distinctive features, check out Serres Farms, a small farm just outside Redmond. You’ll find Jack Be Littles, Baby Boo, Knucklehead, Warty Goblins and one variety called Long Face; farmer Bill Serres is also partial to growing White Ghost pumpkins and a sweet French heirloom known as Red French Cinderella.
How to find your field of dreams? Think about the kind of experience you want. Like pumpkins, U-Pick patches come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re looking to bring out the kid in everyone, opt for farms with more activities – rides, corn mazes, apple cider donuts, pumpkin sling shots, hayrides and the occasional zombie. If a slower pace with plenty of time and space to take in the scenery is your jam, try a smaller farm or plan for quieter hours at a larger farm.
Wherever your pumpkin pilgrimage takes you this month, know before you go:
- Covid-19 rules might create restrictions as farms have to limit the number of visitors. If you’re going somewhere that doesn’t take reservations, plan accordingly
- Dress for the farm – there will be weather, mud and uneven ground
- Leave your canine companions at home unless the farm has a pet-friendly policy. Many do not allow outside pets due to their own livestock
- COVID-19 restrictions apply in farm country too. Wear masks, bring hand sanitizer, and be prepared to distance
- Call ahead of your planned visit or check the farm’s website and social media for the latest updates. Farms can and do run out of pumpkins before the end of October
Find Pumpkin Patches on Washington Food & Farm Finder here