Jim and Sue Giamarese say their farm in East Brunswick is among the first in New Jersey to offer pumpkin picking. “We started back in 1982 or ’83,” says Jim. These days, Giamarese Farms and Orchards raises 25 acres of pumpkins of all kinds. “We have the warty ones, the white ones, the really big 100-pound ones and the regular face pumpkins,” he says.
Jim and Sue began farming the 120-acre farm in 1981; they officially bought a 35-acre parcel of it from his extended family in 1986. They’ve been leading the pick-your-own pack ever since, with summer berries and sugar snap peas kicking off the picking, followed in the fall by apples, pumpkins and collard greens. If DIY isn’t your thing, you can stock up on fresh-picked fruits and vegetables along with pies, cakes and apple-cider donuts, plus homemade jams and spreads, at the Farm Market, run by Sue.
It’s easy to spend a full day at Giamarese Farms during fall harvest weekends. In addition to pumpkins, there are four acres of apples to pick. “That can start as early as Labor Day,” says Jim.
Other festival activities include pony rides, a corn maze, food vendors, mums and flowers for purchase, and an educational hayride. “I explain about the farm and what’s growing,” says Jim. “It gives kids the flavor of New Jersey agriculture.” He encourages kids to pet his chickens and get up close and personal with his pigs—kept safely inside their pens.
Erika Perez of Avenel visited Giamarese Farms last fall with her mom, brother and best friend. “We’d been here before for the apples,” she said, “and remembered what a great place it was.” Perez went home with two pumpkins, one to carve and the other earmarked for a homemade pie. Her friend, Jessica Grollman of Highland Park, had a more immediate hunger. “I didn’t get a pumpkin, but I got a cinnamon-powdered donut and apple cider,” she said.
Cristina Cerbelli and Anthony Alabi of North Brunswick brought their 3-month-old son, Leo, for his first pumpkin-patch experience. They also had a specific treat in mind: “We’re here for the apple cake,” said Alabi.
Evangelia Psarakis of Bridgewater brought two friends visiting from Greece. “I wanted them to visit this great fall tradition that we have in the Northeast since there’s nothing like it in Greece,” she said. After snacking on kettle corn, Psarakis picked out a giant pumpkin for her front stoop.
Jim Giamarese is quick to point out that fall day-trippers have plenty of Jersey farms from which to choose. “If it’s too crowded here, visit one of them,” he encourages. “I’m committed to New Jersey farmers.”
Giamarese Farms has ample parking. There are a number of tables for a picnic, or bring a blanket to spread on the ground. Open 10 am to 6 pm, seven days a week through October. Check their website for special events.
155 Fresh Ponds Road, East Brunswick; 732-821-9494.
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