For many families, the tradition of driving to a farm and picking a pumpkin out of a patch is just as important as actually carving the pumpkin. It’s also about getting lost in a corn maze, sipping apple cider and getting outside before the snow falls.
Bridgewater Produce Farm, a farm and pumpkin patch located in Northfield, is well aware of these fall traditions. Each weekend in October, the farm opens a “pumpkin playland,” where kids (and their parents) can hop on a hay ride, play in a corn sandbox and more. Last year, the farm added a track where visitors can race big-wheel tricycles.
The pick-your-own pumpkin patch itself is open any day of the week, as is the rest of the farm, selling mums, gourds, squash and other fall produce. Most of these pumpkins are the standard orange variety, usually weighing in between 25 and 45 pounds. The record-size pumpkin, according to owner John Larson, grew to 120 pounds. He said kids often “find some monster pumpkin that we didn’t know was out there.”
The farm grows 25 varieties of pumpkins that vary from year to year as the owners try new types of seeds. This year’s more unusual varieties include white and gray pumpkins. For standard pumpkins, Larson recommends picking one with bright orange coloring, a round shape and solid stem to last longest during the season.
Bridgewater Produce: 4706 East Lonsdale Blvd. (Hwy. 19 West), Northfield, bridgewaterproducefarm.com
Twenty miles to the south, Twiehoff Gardens and Nursery in Faribault is still going strong after over 50 years of selling pumpkins and other vegetables. The pumpkin patch got its start when owner Steve Twiehoff was 11 years old, selling pumpkins in his front yard. The operation grew and grew, and the farm now sells squash, corn, straw bales and other seasonal produce in the fall.
“I have loyal customers,” said Twiehoff of his farm’s success. “I enjoy the work and the people.”
The 2 ½ -acre patch is now home to pie pumpkins, pink pumpkins, “Cinderella” pumpkins (named for Cinderella’s carriage) and more, pre-picked as soon as they’re ripe.
Twiehoff said the farm plants a combination of new and old varieties in the spring, but what’s ready in the fall is sometimes a mystery.
This year, Twiehoff Gardens will host its annual Pumpkin Festival from 1-4 p.m. Oct. 6. Along with the pumpkins, visitors can enjoy face painting, a carving demonstration, cookies, cider and popcorn. And if you’d rather a pre-decorated pumpkin, painted pumpkins, both spooky and not-so-spooky, are available.
Twiehoff Gardens and Nursery: 917 St. Paul Rd., Faribault, twiehoffgardens.com
Here’s a list of some other pumpkin patches located throughout southern Minnesota:
Center Creek Orchard
Located just north of the Iowa border, Center Creek Orchard offers pick-your-own pumpkins for all tastes, from classic orange to blue, yellow, pink and multicolored. The whole family can also enjoy an apple orchard, as well as a fall festival every weekend in September and October. Come for classic fall activities like a hay maze, haunted forest and hayride—stay for the more unique options like an 80-foot slide, apple slinging (it’s exactly what it sounds like) and a barrel ride.
663 254th Ave., Fairmont, centercreekorchard.com
Barten Pumpkins’ website proclaims itself “the most family-friendly pumpkin patch in the Twin Cities,” and the owners practice what they preach: all of their 11 children (plus their spouses and 34 grandchildren) help out on the farm. The pumpkin patch is open through Oct. 31, but stop by Oct. 6 or 13 for extra activities including a caricature artist, pony rides, pumpkin bowling, a bubble machine, hayrides and music from an old-fashioned mechanical organ.
5716 West 280th St., New Prague, bartenpumpkins.com
Farmer John’s Pumpkin Patch
Farmer John’s Pumpkin Patch started by accident in 1988, when the owners planted pumpkins in a vacant lot to smother weeds. It didn’t work, but it grew into a bustling pumpkin patch that now grows 30 varieties over 8 acres. The farm is also the home of the pink Porcelain Doll pumpkin, and 25 cents from every pumpkin sold goes toward breast cancer research. Pumpkin-seekers can also shop the antique barn, picnic on the farm and explore the silo slide.
690537 273rd St., Austin, farmerjohnspumpkinpatch.com
Northwoods Orchard offers both an apple orchard and pumpkin patch for those who can’t decide between the two. When you’re done, take a walk through the “Life on the Farm” corn maze or try the “Think Like a Bee” scavenger hunt for the little ones. Open every weekend in October, the orchard also sells Amish syrups and fruit butters, along with ornamental fall produce, so come prepared to stock up.
8018 75th Ave. NW, Oronoco, northwoodsorchard.com
Apple Ridge Orchard, Mazeppa
Located 14 miles north of Rochester, Apple Ridge offers apples, pumpkins and grapes, all accessible via wagon rides that run daily (or buy them pre-picked in the store). There are also two corn mazes—one for kids, one for adults. Bring your camera for when you meet the alpacas, goats and peacocks roaming the barnyard area.
47418 240th Ave., Mazeppa, appleridgeorchard.com
By Anne Kopas