Thanks to our many local orchards, the first crisp apples of autumn are here. For adults reliving the Halloween season with their kids, orchards are also a source of pumpkins, multicolored gourds, stalks of dried corn and other essential fall accessories. At more elaborate operations, there’s live music, hayrides, petting zoos, fishing and even beer gardens. During the winter holidays, some even offer Christmas trees.
As for apple season, it started in late August and runs through Thanksgiving. The beauty of modern orchards is that each variety tastes a little different. Some are great for pies, while others are better for cider. All ripen and are harvested over a three-month period. “We grow about 25 different varieties,” says Joe Piscitelli, farm manager at Indian Orchards near Media.
Like many farms in the region, Indian Orchards lets you pick your own apples and other fruits and vegetables from spring to fall. Families can also purchase annual fruit shares that span the season. As the weather gets chillier, there’s firewood for sale. “We even have cut-your-own Christmas trees,” says Piscitelli.
It’s worth noting that COVID-19 has compelled orchards to re-arrange some activities and events. “But we still have pick-your-own, including pumpkins at Halloween,” says Art Whitehair of Highland Orchards near West Chester. “And, of course, we always have our food trucks and beer garden.”
Like many orchards, Highland is a year-around farm with a large produce market ideal for amateur home chefs into farm-to-table cooking. Regulars gravitate to the farm’s bakery for its specialty, cider donuts.
Back in Delaware County, Media’s Linvilla Orchards is celebrating the 50th anniversary of PumpkinLand. And if that sounds a bit Disney-ish, that’s because Linvilla is a bit like an amusement park. There’s fishing, indoor miniature golf, train and pony rides, and an array of farm animals. Special events range from Santa in the orchard and costume parades to hayrides to BunnyLand and the Witch’s House. And there’s plenty for parents to eat and drink at the Ship Bottom Brewery beer garden.
More sedate is the sixth-generation Ramsey’s Farm. The property doesn’t really have any fruit trees of its own. But in the spirit of autumn, it does have about 12 acres covered with some 50,000 pick-your-own pumpkins. Located just across the Delaware state line off Route 202, the property is indicative of once-large family farms that have been carved up by population growth.
Owned by the Ramsey family from 1860 to 1986, it’s now part of the First State National Historical Park. The pumpkin patch remains intact, and there’s a farm stand with locally grown fruits and vegetables. In addition to the surplus of pumpkins, the farm offers evening events on weekends in October, including bonfires, a flashlight corn maze and an extended hayride.
A recent Yelp review of Barnard’s Orchard and Greenhouse nails its traditional vibe: “It’s not an overdone production like the other places—no corn maze, no hayrides. It’s an actual farm, not a tourist trap disguised as one.” You’ll find pick-your-own apples, a country store, and pumpkins and other fall plants for sale at this modest Kennett Square institution.
Not far from the Barnard’s property in Avondale, Glen Willow Orchard has been operated by the Rosazza family since 1955. In addition to its apple orchards, Glen Willow grows a lot of its own vegetables and has a well-stocked farm stand that includes local mushrooms. Its colorful field-grown mums are a special treat in the fall.
Yardley’s Shady Brook Farm is one of the last family farms in Bucks County. It has acres of pick-your-own apples, blueberries, strawberries, flowers and produce. It’s also an entertainment and shopping hub, with a produce market, a garden center and a pub featuring locally made wines. It’s a bit farther afield but worth the trip.