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Pumpkins Rule At Pick-Your-Own Farms

Pick your own farms in Connecticut are popular in the autumn, when the air is clear and cool, and friends and families are seeking to enjoy the outdoors and come home with produce to create healthy meals and desserts. Apples and pumpkins, in particular, smack of New England.

This year, however, area farms have struggled with apple crops. Damage from last fall’s rogue snowstorm, early warm weather followed by a freeze this spring, and summer ha­ilstorms have resulted in low yield for many apple farmers in western Connecticut.

At Blue Jay Orchards in Bethel, apple crops were significantly reduced due to the spring heat wave/freeze, and for the first time in many years, the orchard did not offer pick your own apples this season. Apples from area farms are available in the market, though, and plenty of pick your own pumpkins and weekend hayrides are available for family fun this fall. Blue Jay Orchards also offers apple trivia tours on the weekends, where your “apple-ly” applied knowledge results in prizes. Pumpkin picking is daily, from 10 am to 5 pm; hayrides and apple trivia tours are 10 am to 4 pm, each weekend. For complete information, visit blujayorchardsct.com or call 203-748-0119.

Castle Hill Farm in Newtown is back with its annual elaborate corn maze, weekend pony rides, and a field of pumpkins waiting to be picked. The Route 302 farm is open 11 am to 5 pm on weekends through October 31, and from 2 to 5 pm weekdays. For details, call 203-426-5487 or visit castlehillfarm.net.

The apple season, due to the warm start, ended early at Silverman Farm in Easton, but lots of pumpkins are available for selection through October. And, for the 35th year, Silverman’s offers a “Guess the Weight of the Pumpkin” contest; if you are correct in guessing how much your pumpkin weighs, you get it free. An animal farm adds to the attraction for young visitors. Silverman’s is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. For complete information, visit silvermansfarm.com or call 203-261-3306.

Jones Family Farm in Shelton begins pumpkin picking the end of September, and continues through October, along with hayrides and a corn maze for plenty of fun for all ages. The Jones Winery offers wine tastings for small groups and individuals without reservations, or for larger groups with reservations. Call the farm for daily updates on picking conditions and special activities at 203-929-8425 or visit jonesfamilyfarms.com for more information.

It is apples and alpacas at Averill Farm in Washington Depot this fall. About 75 percent of the normal apple crop survived adverse weather conditions, so it is important to call ahead for apple picking conditions at 860-868-2777, and to find out which varieties are still available. On Sundays in October, weather permitting, Forte Farm alpacas will be on site. The farm is open every day, from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.

The apples are not pretty, thanks to the summer hailstorms, but they are still delicious, say the farmers at Ellsworth Hill Orchard and Berry Farm in Sharon, and it is worth a trip to pick your own apples. Like Averill Farm, Ellsworth Hill Orchard recommends a phone call to check on apple picking conditions, at 860-364-0025. Pick your own pumpkins are plentiful, though, and be sure to wind your way through the corn maze. For complete information visit ellsworthfarm.com.

Many apple were lost to the late frost and summer hailstorms at March Farm in Bethel, ending the apple season early. Pick your own pumpkins continues through October, however, and an animal yard with pygmy, Angora, and Nigerian goats, and a hayloft playscape makes this farm a full afternoon of fun for families. Visitors are asked to check the website at marchfarm.com for information.

A trip to Lyman Orchards’ in Middlefield is a bit further afield, but the 1,100-acre farm offers not only plenty of pick your own opportunities, but many other activities and events. Visit the website at lymanorchards.com or call 860- 349-1793.

Whether picking your own or just enjoying the harvest sold at a roadside stand, autumn in Connecticut beckons to young and old. Enjoy the fruits of the season.

A complete listing of Connecticut farms can be found at pickyourown.org.

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