With two weeks left until Halloween, its time to head out to the farm and bring home a pumpkin or two.
Wegmeyer Farms, owned by former Congressional staffer Tyler Wegmeyer and his wife, Harriet, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Wegmeyer, a northern Michigan native who is now director of Congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said his farm, about 50 miles from Capitol Hill in Hamilton, Va., grows about 6,000 pumpkins each season. Visitors can pick their own, and for $5, they can go on an educational hay ride, where they get a list of agriculture-related questions (such as, How many people does an average farmer feed? and Which president established the Department of Agriculture?) and then find the scarecrows that have the corresponding answers. (And you thought you would escape Washington out in the country?)
In the fall, visitors can also pick their own raspberries; strawberries and blackberries grow in the spring.
Great Country Farms celebrates the season with its fall pumpkin harvest through Nov. 2. Guests are admitted for $8 on weekends and $6 during the week (except Mondays). Children and adults can get involved in a wide variety of activities, including petting barn animals, fishing at two ponds and getting lost in five mazes built out of farm items such as tractors, ropes and willows. In October, visitors pick winter squash in addition to pumpkins and gourds; during other seasons, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, peppers, potatoes, squash, strawberries and tomatoes can be picked. Great Country Farms is 60 miles west of Capitol Hill in Bluemont, Va.
In Maryland, Butlers Orchard in Germantown hosts a pumpkin festival every weekend through Halloween. For $10 per person, families can take part in hay rides, a straw maze, a tube slide, a rubber ducky derby and several other activities. For an additional fee, they can try a pumpkin cannon, take pony rides, have their faces painted and, of course, pick pumpkins to take home. Musicians perform from noon to 4 p.m. each day. Butlers Orchard is about 30 miles northwest of Capitol Hill.
At Summers Farm in Frederick, Md., about 20 miles beyond Germantown on I-270, visitors can hike their way through a 10-acre corn maze designed in the faces of presidential nominees Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). They can pick their own pumpkins or choose already-picked pumpkins at the market, where gourds, Indian corn, corn-stalk bundles and straw bales for decorating are available, too. Kids can take pony rides and befriend small animals in the barnyard. Entrance costs $9 per person on weekends and $6 per person during the week.
Check out wegmeyerfarms.com, greatcountryfarms.com, butlersorchard.com and summersfarm.com to find out more about each pumpkin patch.