Plethora of pumpkin patches span Wine Country
DURING THE ANNUAL Harvest Festival at the Sonoma Garden Park, 4-year-old Gabriel Irisarri had fun painting pumpkins.
A hot summer means high air-conditioning bills, but it also means pumpkins. And lots of them.
Sonoma County residents can look forward to a decorative fall season, according to local pumpkin patch owners. They can also look forward to a festive fall, as many of these patches have more than just squash to offer. While Sonoma families can find a 570-pound pumpkin if they so desire, or a gourd shaped like a ghost, these patches also have a host of special fall activities to offer this October, sparking fall fun for the whole family.
The Tolay Fall Festival includes a pumpkin patch, a “creatures” barn full of creepy critters, a straw maze, a petting zoo, lawn games, food stands, a Native American village, old-fashioned crafts for kids, and a pumpkin seed spitting contest. It runs this weekend, Oct. 20 and 21, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Tolay Lake Regional Park. Visit sonoma-county.org/parks/pk_tolay_fallfestival for more.
The Stanly Lane Pumpkin Patch, located near the intersection of Highway 29 and Highway 121 in Napa, is open seven days a week during October.
If searching for the largest pumpkin, Muelrath Ranch Pumpkin Patch is the place to go at 3800 Walker Ave., in Santa Rosa. Muelrath Ranch boasts Sonoma County’s largest pumpkin, a whopping 570-pounds. In addition, this working farm grows 21 different pumpkin varieties, and “almost every gourd imaginable,” according to Bob Muelrath, the farm’s owner. “It’s a relaxed a warm atmosphere out here.”
In addition to pumpkins and gourds, Muelrath Ranch Pumpkin Patch offers hay rides, a hay pyramid, a pumpkin slingshot, a hay tunnel and a corn maze. All attractions are free of charge.
“We’re geared for the younger kids, but the teenagers and adults get a kick out of it,” said Muelrath.
Every Friday from 6 to 9 p.m., Muelrath Ranch also hosts a campfire festival. For a $10 admission fee, visitors can enjoy hot dogs, cider, marshmallows, cookies, hot chocolate and the many hay attractions on the farm. Additionally, the pumpkin patch is open for nighttime picking. Get more at muelrathspumpkins.com.
An all-American pumpkin carnival experience can be found at the Santa Rosa Pumpkin Patch, open for its first season in the pumpkin patch business at 5157 Stony Point Road in Santa Rosa. In addition to eight acres of pumpkins, the Santa Rosa Pumpkin Patch also has five acres of corn maze, with both a 30-minute route and an hour-long route.
Other attractions include a large corn box – which is like a sandbox filled with corn – a petting zoo, pony rides, face painting and on the weekends, a rock wall, a powered jump and a variety of different food and crafts vendors.
A similarly elaborate pumpkin patch carnival can be found at the Adobe Pumpkin Farm, where visitors are invited to enjoy a hay ride, a jumpie house, a corn maze, a haunted house, face painting, glitter tattoos and pony rides, in addition to various food vendors. Holiday decorations can be bought in the Halloween Barn, the Christmas Barn and the Crafts Barn. It’s located at 2478 E. Washington St., in Petaluma.
Guests can also pay a visit to the Pumpkin Fairy Godmother.
“She tells stories and grants wishes,” said patch owner Corinna Neve. “And she is exclusive to my patch.”
The Petaluma Creamery at 4235 Spring Hill Road in Petaluma returns with the Great Peter Pumpkin Patch, where you can pick pumpkins right from the vine. The creamery sells cheeses, picnic baskets, cold drinks and homemade ice cream. As an actual, working dairy, the patch include agricultural experiences like milking cows or digging for potatoes.
Another real farm experience can be had at McClellands’ Dairy Pumpkin Patch, an organic dairy farm which opens for pumpkin sales on weekends from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 6475 Bodega Ave., Petaluma. In addition to a particularly fruitful pumpkin crop, visitors can enjoy a hay maze, watch cows being milked and socialize with cows, goats and bunnies in the petting farm. For small fee, patch-goers can take a guided tour of the farm, learning the history of the dairy business and visiting with the baby animals in the nursery. The tour concludes with a taste test of some of the farm’s homemade dairy products.
“We try to keep everything on the farm very family-oriented and educational,” said farm owner Jana McClellands.
Unique to the patch this year is an abundance of large white pumpkins, which weigh between 30-pounds and 40-pounds, and a gourd called the Crown of Thorns.
“The most interesting thing we grew is a gourd,” said McClellands. “It looks like a ghost when it’s hanging up. It has all these strange little fingers.”
Another educational farm experience can be found at Peterson’s Farm, where Ettamarie Peterson prides herself on the small family farm feel.
“We’re more of a farm, not an amusement park,” said Peterson. “We especially love the little kids.”
Peterson’s pumpkin patch suffered slightly due to a pesky gopher problem. “I’m hanging in there,” she said. “Just barely.”
But unique to Peterson’s Farm is the observation beehive, where observers can locate the queen bee, and watch the other bees at work. Children are also invited to feed the farm animals, and pick out a pumpkin from the patch, some of which are as large as 70 pounds. It is open weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 636 Gossage Ave., in Petaluma.
At First Light Farm Organic, one of the only certified pumpkin farms in Sonoma County, visitors can find both decorative pumpkins and edible ones, as well as an abundance of organic vegetables and fruits.
“People really love it,” said Nathan Boone, who runs the farm with Jesse Pizzitola. “We’re a real working farm: old fashioned, down home. People can come here to get food to feed their families. We don’t poison our pumpkins, our workers or our customers with pesticides.”
First Light Farm’s pumpkin crop is varied in shape, size and color.
“We’ve got the bumpy ones, the weird ones, the heirlooms,” said Boone.
The farm also offers a hayride, a hay maze and a hay pyramid for entertainment.
First Light Farm Organic will host a Pumpkin Party on Saturday, Oct. 20, which will include pumpkin picking and carving, hay rides, train rides, food and music. It is located at 1751 Bollinger Lane in Sebastopol.