Around this time people ask me where in North Carolina they can pick pumpkins, as opposed to “picking up” the ones sitting in a lot that were trucked in from who knows where. This list is not complete, but here are a few of my favorite real-live pumpkin patches with descriptions taken from my upcoming book. One farm even sells organic pumpkins! I’d love to hear about your favorite NC pumpkin patches.
Ganyard Hill Farm: In 1994, Milton Ganyard and and his late wife, Karen, opened the charming Ganyard Hill Farm, choosing to focus on farm education and tourism. “Our concept was we want people to have fun and learn while doing.” The biggest draw is the four-acre U-pick pumpkin patch. “They’re hard to grow in this climate, but we didn’t want to truck them in like most people do.” 319 Sherron Road, Durham (Durham County), 919-596-8728, www.pumpkincountry.com. Open late September to November.
Gross Farms: Gross Farms’ fifteen-acre corn maze, the largest in the state, gets most of the attention on this Century Farm an hour southwest of Raleigh, but the three-acre pumpkin patch is also a huge draw, said Tina Gross. “They can go out and pick their own pumpkins, which you can’t find at many places.” The long-time tobacco growers started the maze, pumpkins, and hayrides in 2002. 1606 Pickett Road, Sanford (Lee County), 919-498-6727, www.grossfarms.com. Open April to August, maze and pumpkin patch September to November.
Riverbend Farm: A trek to Riverbend Farm, forty minutes east of Charlotte, is an autumnal ritual for many families in the area. Since 1984, owner Jim and Mary Little have continued to add to the offerings on their ninety-two-acre farm, which include home-grown pumpkins, buffalo, goats, a playground, ice cream shop, and a whopping twenty-two-acre pumpkin patch. And don’t forget the giant cow. In 2009, the couple spied a ten-foot fiberglass Holstein in the Midwest and bolted it to a trailer for the hitch home. “You should have seen the looks we got on the road,” said Mary. 12150 McManus Road, Midland (Cabarrus County), 704-888-2891, www.riverbendfarm.net. Open late September to October. Country Store available for parties.
Vollmer Farm: Few farms in the state do agritourism at the level Vollmer Farm does. What’s most admirable is that the Vollmers operate a working farm, having made the switch from tobacco to produce, while also attracting thousands of visitors a year to its “Back Forty” entertainment complex. Equally admirable is the Vollmer’s commitment to organics. They’re one of the few places in the state to have organic U-pick strawberries, then they added blueberries, and now all their homegrown pumpkins are organic! Wow! 677 NC Highway 98 E, Bunn (Franklin County), 919-496-3076, www.vollmerfarm.com. Open April to October.