After a hot and humid summer, it is finally fall. For families, that means it’s prime time for visiting farms and harvesting the bountiful autumnal produce that exemplifies what it means to embrace the season. The choices for “pick-your-own” farms are plentiful in the area, and many offer more than produce. For families looking for all-inclusive day trips for apple and pumpkin picking that includes educational opportunities, rustic scenery, homemade treats, and fun events, Carter Mountain Orchard and Braehead Farm are the ideal locales for establishing fall family traditions.
Carter Mountain Orchard: For the Apple Lover
Carter Mountain Orchard, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, is family owned and operated and is open seasonally from April through November. Owner Cynthia Chiles is proud of Carter Mountain’s reputation. “We’re well known for our popular school field trips and host an average of 10,000 people each year with our educational programs,” she says. Its unique and gorgeously scenic mountaintop location has also made it a family destination for decades. It is the perfect day trip for families in Fredericksburg for apple picking, not only for all that the orchard offers, but due to its close proximity to historic Monticello and Michie Tavern – and even the drive there is stunning. White fences and serene farm animals line the peaceful excursion, and driving up Carter Mountain itself is a fun delight for children. The apple orchard at the summit is plentiful and families are able to “pick their own” out of more than a dozen varieties of apples.
The autumn season also features hayrides, a small pumpkin patch, and gourds for purchase, as well as a country store and bakery. “We have apple pies, apple caramel cookies, soft serve ice cream and apple cider,” Chiles says. Carter Mountain Orchard is also very well-known for their famous apple cider donuts, which have continued to be a long-standing tradition for patrons year after year. Above all, the mountaintop offers spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is a perfect and unmatched backdrop for unforgettable family photos and memories. For more information, visit http://chilesfamilyorchards.com/
Braehead Farm: Pumpkin Picker’s Paradise
For families looking for a local spot for pumpkin picking and autumnal farm treats, Braehead Farm is an idyllic site perfect for children of every age. The last remaining farm within the city of Fredericksburg, Braehead Farm is family owned and operated and prides itself on being a fun family destination. “There is something for everyone,” says owner Roxanna Snead. “Children love to come to Braehead Farm year-round to play in the family playgrounds, visit the farm animals and pick fruits and vegetables.” The playground area includes a hay barn, corn pit, swings, sand piles, slides and farm animals. The “pick your own” fields are admission free and there is a market filled with seasonal produce, ice cream, eggs, honey and more. During the weekdays, the farm offers learning workshops for kids. “Children ages 3 and up tour around the farm with educational lessons on honey bees, animals, plants, fruits and veggies, bugs, and in the fall they also get a hayride,” says Snead.
In the fall, Braehead Farm transforms into an all-inclusive celebration of the season. While the admission free areas are still available, including a pumpkin patch, each weekend in October also offers Braehead’s Fall Harvest Festival. For a small fee per person, the festival includes hayrides around the farm and through the forest, a corn maze, sunflower maze, the family playgrounds, several pumpkin patches to choose from, pumpkin decorating and a photo opportunity with “The Great Pumpkin” as he sits on his hay throne. For additional fees, there are also face painting and special food vendors and seasonal concessions. Snead adds, “Braehead Farm has fresh apple cider, kettle corn, apples, cotton candy, pies and more!” The biggest appeal of Braehead Farm is its casual feel and “child-led” areas of free play and exploration. In addition to pumpkin picking, families will feel welcome to stay all day to discover farm life with the many hands-on farm experiences and seasonal delights. For more information, visit http://braeheadfarm.com/
What to do with all those apples and pumpkins you just picked? Check out these recipes to add to your repertoire. Both are super easy and a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen!
Apple Crumble Pie
• 1 (9 inch) deep dish pie crust
• 5 cups apples – peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
• ¾ cup white sugar, divided
• ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ cup brown sugar
• ¾ cup all-purpose flour
• 6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Arrange apple slices in unbaked pie shell. Mix ½ cup white sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over apples.
2. Mix brown sugar and remaining ¼ cup white sugar with flour and cut into butter until crumbly. Spoon mixture over apples.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until apples are soft and top is lightly browned.
Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
• 1 ½ cups pumpkin seeds, scooped, rinsed, and removed from pulp
• 2 tablespoons melted butter
• 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
• ½ teaspoon paprika
• ¼teaspoon cayenne pepper
• Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. In a bowl, toss the seeds with the melted butter, coating thoroughly. Add seasonings and salt and pepper.
3. Spread seeds in one even layer across a greased baking sheet.
4. Bake for 30 minutes until seeds are golden brown, tossing halfway through.