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All You Can Pick

Self-pick farms offer more than apples, pumpkins and produce you gather yourself. From hayrides to corn mazes to pie tastings, they fill fall days with family fun.

Posted September 13, 2011

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Eastmont Orchards in Colts Neck
Tara and Dan Murphy steady son Liam, one of the next generation of pickers, at Eastmont Orchards in Colts Neck. Below, reaching for a crisp Eastmont apple.
Photo by Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Springdale Farm in Cherry Hill
Gathering potential jack-o-lanterns at Springdale Farm, Cherry Hill.
Photo by Steve Greer/stevergreerphotography.com.

Terhune Orchards
Peyton Phelan—with parents Taryn and Robert, of Middletown—zeroes in on a ripe one at Terhune Orchards.
Photo by Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Terhune Orchards
At many farms, including Terhune Orchards in Princeton, you don’t have to walk into the fields to select the perfect pumpkin.
Photo by Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Alstede Farms
84 Route 513 (Old Route 24)
Chester (Morris County)
908-879-7189; alstedefarms.com

 

The 500-acre Alstede Farm, family-run for generations, attracts guests from far and wide with its pick-your-own activities and on-premises market. Pick a peck of peppers—or tomatoes, eggplant, blackberries and peaches–in summer through early fall and, beginning in September, stock up on pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn. Flower picking happens July through October, and apples are in season August through November. In June and July, load your basket with strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries and currants.

The farm is also known for its “agritainment” activities that include harvest festivals, corn mazes, hayrides, pony rides, animal feedings and old-fashioned pie tastings. Speaking of pie, Alstede Farm bakes pies daily and also sells homemade ice cream, local eggs and dairy products and New Jersey wines. Ask about certified organic crops, family fun passes and kids’ summer camp. The farm is open every day.—SB

Conte Farms
299 Flyatt Road
Tabernacle (Burlington County)
609-268-1010

 

For more than 60 years, Conte’s has been owned and operated by the same family, and their sprawling 500-acre farm on the edge of the Pine Barrens takes visitors back to South Jersey’s agricultural roots.

Nearly everything—from produce to baked goods to ice cream—is grown, picked and prepared on premises. Visitors can wander through the farm’s expansive, open-air market and buy fresh, seasonal produce (don’t miss the beets, potatoes and cranberries in fall) or take hayrides to the fields and pick their own.

One of the farm’s most popular items, Jersey peaches, can be picked until late August. Fall is primetime for apple, pumpkin and squash picking. Depending on season, picking options include asparagus, spinach, string beans, sweet potatoes, yams, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, corn, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, eggplant and cauliflower.

Conte’s also offers picking tours for schoolchildren from September to early November, as well as an impressive six-acre corn maze (which even adults will find challenging).

Don’t leave without trying the apple or pumpkin ice cream or taking home some local honey. The farm is open seven days a week from late May through the day before Thanksgiving.—ND

DePiero’s Country Farm
300 West Grand Avenue
Montvale (Bergen County)
201-391-4576; depieros.com

 

The smell of fresh cinnamon donuts wafts as children run a hay maze or wait to get their faces painted, families pick pumpkins or eat lunch at picnic tables. Known for its fresh produce, seasonal baked goods, on-site butcher, greenhouse and indoor market, DePiero’s is the only farm in Bergen County open all year, with fall its busiest season. Visitors can brave a haunted hay ride, take kids to the petting zoo,  buy decorated pumpkins, turban squash, corn stalks, gourds and more.

“It has a little something for everyone,” says Fair Lawn native Jane Spitzfaden, bouncing on the hay wagon as it takes her, her sister and her young nephew to the pumpkin patch. “My sister is from Manhattan, and it’s such a nice getaway from the city.” It’s a nice getaway from just about anywhere. DePiero’s is open seven days a week (except Christmas and New Year’s Eve) from 7 am to 6 pm.—AS

Eastmont Orchards
169 County Road 537 East
Colts Neck (Monmouth County)
732-542-5404; eastmontorchards.com

 

Apart from a small amount of peach and nectarine picking in summer and pumpkin picking in fall, Eastmont Orchards is all about plucking apples from row after perfectly-groomed row of mature trees: Crispin, Jonathan, Empire, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and more. There are no hayrides, cider-and-donut stands or scary stuff at Halloween. (There’s plenty of that within a few miles in any direction.)

Eastmont’s first apple trees were planted in 1911, and the farm has been owned by the Barclay family since 1923. While picnicking on premises is discouraged, it’s fine at Dorbrook Park a quarter mile east on Route 537. If you don’t want to pack your own lunch, stop at Delicious Orchards a couple miles away to grab a gourmet sandwich and fresh baked goods. Eastmont accepts cash or check only. Hours are 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, 9 am to 6 pm weekends. Often closed by late-October, so call ahead.—LP

Hallock’s U-Pick Farm & Greenhouse
38 Fischer Road
New Egypt (Ocean County)
609-758-8847; hallocksupick.com

 

This no-frills 300-acre farm offers a virtual cornucopia of picking opportunities: Depending on season, tomatoes, peppers, lima beans, butter beans, onions, okra, black-eyed peas, eggplant, spinach, kale, collards, cabbage, beets, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli and more. Customers (often toting bushel baskets) can drive their cars right up to whatever bounty they plan to pick, making it easier to haul home massive amounts of multiple crops. On busy weekends, checkout can be a bit frenzied, so be prepared to wait.

Hallock’s also has a farm stand offering reasonably priced produce, honey, jams and canning supplies. In the spring, its 60,000-square-foot greenhouse includes potted plants, hanging baskets, mulch, soil and more. In the fall, a wide range of mums is available for purchase.

Once you’ve finished picking, visit Laurita Winery about a mile away at 35 Archertown Rd. Its handsome tasting room overlooking the vineyards is worth the detour, as are Laurita’s $7 wine tastings.

Hallock’s accepts cash, debit and credit cards, Family First and WIC checks. Hours are 7 am to 7 pm Monday through Friday, 7 am to 5 pm weekends.—LP

Johnson’s Corner Farm
133 Church Road
Medford (Burlington County)
609-654-8643; johnsonsfarm.com

 

In 1953, Bill and Bette Johnson parked a produce truck on the corner of Church and Hartford Roads in Medford and started selling corn. Now, more than half a century later, Johnson’s Corner Farm attracts thousands of visitors each fall.

From  September through Halloween, Fall Festival Weekends include live music, a cornstalk maze, hay rides, a giant moon bounce, pumpkin picking and a food tent. Inside the main building, visitors can buy an assortment of freshly baked pies (legendary in this part of the state), cider donuts, ice cream and produce.

Apple picking (seven varieties are available) usually peters out around Columbus Day, so start early. After that pumpkins, gourds, sweet potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower move to the fore.

Kids can visit the Discovery Barnyard, an enclosed playground where activities include climbing rocks and pedal-car racing on a small track. Hayrides run continuously from 10 am to 5 pm Saturdays and Sundays, and on the hour 11 am to 5 pm weekdays.—ND

Marlboro Farm Market
601 Route 49
Bridgeton (Salem County)
856-451-3138

 

Even in a determinedly rural area of Salem County (in southwestern New Jersey’s protruding belly), Marlboro Farm Market has such an iconic look that you almost expect to see the couple from Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” standing out front. The hayride through the pumpkin patch is free, and visitors pay only for the pumpkins they pick.  The rides go from 10 am to 5 pm Saturdays and Sundays, plus Columbus Day, through the end of October.

The market is open 9 am to 7 pm Monday through Saturday and 9 am to 6 pm Sunday. While there is plenty of fresh Salem County produce, Marlboro has a special room for its own preserves and condiments. —RS

Pochuck Valley Farms Market and Deli
962 Route 517 (McAfee Glenwood Road)
Glenwood (Sussex County)
973-764-4732; pochuckvalleyfarms.com

 

 

For a farm that welcomes the public seven days a week this time of year for apple, pumpkin, gourd, pear and vegetable picking, Pochuck Valley Farms feels supremely tranquil, which might have something to do with the twisty-turny scenic roads that lead visitors to the farm through the New Jersey Highlands.

As apple orchards go, Pochuck’s are rough-and-tumble (wear thick-soled shoes or boots—hard apples underfoot can cause the kind of bruising that will keep you out of heels for two days), but that only adds to the untainted rural appeal of this 165-acre smorgasbord.

And it truly is a smorgasbord, at least for apple lovers: in addition to October favorites such as Empires, Cortlands, and Winesaps, a few well-timed turns in Pochuck’s orchards lead pickers to less common varieties such as Black Twig (dark purple, good for baking, semi-sweet) and Opalescent (big, sweet and crunchy).

Don’t miss the cider in the market and deli—not only is it handmade using more than three varieties for maximum flavor, samples are free. Open 5 am to 6 pm, Monday through Friday; 5 am to 5 pm, weekends; picking, 9 am to 4 pm.—TLG

Riamede Farm
122 Oakdale Road
Chester (Morris County)
908-879-5353; riamede.com

 

Riamede opened its orchards to the public in 1974. The Morris County farm offers 35 acres of apple trees bearing 34 varieties of the perennial fruit ranging from traditional classics like Golden Delicious to heirloom specialties like King David to modern favorites like Gala. Trees are painted with colored bands to indicate the type of apple they bear.

There is a $1 admission fee to enter the farm on the weekends (children under 6 and weekday visits are free), and picked apples are available for purchase. Riamede also has a large pumpkin field behind the orchard. During October weekends, hop on the free haywagon to be dropped off at the pumpkin field gate. Early in pumpkin season, you may cut your own pumpkins off the vine, so have a cutting tool handy.

Riamede prides itself on being a peaceful, quiet, old-time apple orchard, so there is no corn maze, petting zoo or ice cream parlor. But Alstede Farms (described on page 49) is only a 5-minute drive and offers all three. Riamede Farm is open daily, 9 am to 4:30 pm during fall picking season.—AJC

Springdale Farms
1638 South Springdale Road
Cherry Hill (Camden County)
856-424-8674; springdalefarms.com

 

When Alan Ebert bought Springdale Farms in 1949 after being discharged from the Navy, most of the land around him for miles was used for agriculture. Now Springdale is the last working farm in Cherry Hill, surrounded mostly by housing developments and strip centers. The Ebert family oasis is a warren of activity every fall.

The pumpkin-picking hayrides go out three times daily during weekdays and continuously from 10 am to 3:30 pm weekends ($3 plus 69 cents per pound for the pumpkins). The corn maze is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm and Friday nights (bring a flashlight) from 6 to 10 pm through Halloween ($9). There are pie-tasting weekends (10 am to 4 pm) throughout November and educational hayrides for groups of 15 or more by appointment weekdays.

The garden shop and produce store spreads out under a block-long conservatory-type greenhouse. There is a tasting area for local wines and bin after bin of Springdale-grown fruits and vegetables. (There’s strawberry picking in May and June.)

The garden store is filled with seasonal plants and all the requisite fall gourds, cactuses and Halloween lawn and house decorations.  Springdale is also known for its pies and fruit pastries, whose aromas fill the store from the bakery in back.—RS

Terhune Orchards
330 Cold Soil Road
Princeton (Mercer County)
609-924-2310; terhuneorchards.com

 

Among its 35 crops on 185 acres, Terhune Orchards has a five-acre pick-your-own pumpkin patch that opens the third weekend of September. Nearby at Van Kirk Road, Terhune’s apple orchard features more than 30 varieties, seven of which you can pick, including Stayman Winesap, Granny Smith, Fuji, Braeburn, Cameo, Empire and Pink Lady. Varieties are planted in sections so they are easy to distinguish.

There are dwarf trees so even the smallest pickers can join in the frolic. Beginning late September through October, the orchard also hosts Family Fun Festivals each weekend from 10 am to 5 pm. For $5, visitors can listen to live music, enjoy pony and wagon rides, get lost in the corn maze, explore the barnyard (live animals!) and sample a variety of fare, including Terhune’s cider, cider donuts and a variety of pies. Open every day.—DAS

Wightman’s Farms
1111 Mount Kemble Avenue
Morristown (Morris County)
973-425-9819; wightmansfarms.com

 

Wightman’s is an oasis—a peaceful, apple-, pumpkin- and straw-bale-dotted distraction from traffic and chores. It stretches 150-acres and is just minutes from the thrum of suburbia (the Morristown Green is just a couple miles away).

Pick-your-own opportunities are limited—weekends only, August 6 through November 6, unless you’re in a school group. Most weekends are mobbed, whether you come first thing (9 am) or just prior to 5 pm, when the fields close to pickers.

Still, beyond the market—open 8 am–6 pm—for hot apple-cherry cider and fragrant homemade donuts, there’s plenty of rows of trees. Varieties include Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, and Fuji, the pie-maker’s choice. Picking poles and baskets stand near the orchard entrance, but the pole isn’t strictly necessary; an abundance of low-hanging fruit makes it easy for toddlers and preschoolers to get in on the action.

A corn maze and hayrides are also available, allowing families to make a day of it.—TLGAlstede Farms

By Susan Brierly, Nick DiUlio, Ashley J. Cerasaro, Tammy La Gorce, Lauren Payne, Drew Anne Scarantino, Alicia Staffa and Robert Strauss

 


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Comments
Pick your own farms

We have been going to pick your own farms for many years. It is a nice tradition to have with your children. Do bring a camera to capture fond memories of the day. Also, do call ahead to see what is in season and to get prices on the produce. Prices will vary from farm to farm. You can also check with your county extension office for a more extensive list of pick your own farms.

Posted by: Anita Smith, Bound Brook | Sep 23, 2011 22:07:11 PM |