Outdoor Adventures

Vegetable Farms and Pumpkin Patches Provide Distanced Fun!

Local pumpkin patches and vegetable farms made a few adjustments to lower the risk of COVID-19 while providing the fall traditions we all love.

U-pick veggies at Bailey Family Farm

Just north of Seattle, Bailey Family Farm has been offering u-pick veggies since 1986. We are now late into the Northwest harvest season, but there are still squash, zucchini, beans, kale, snow peas, beets, and spinach to be had at the family friendly farm. Fields of corn offer ears to be plucked from towering stocks and autumn flowers can be gathered from orderly beds.

When I visited Bailey Farms recently, it was a busy Saturday morning. Families with small children made up most of the clientele, but there were also couples and groups of high school students wandering the many acres of cropland. Despite the crowds, the Bailey u-pick experience feels safe because it’s outdoors and there is ample room to spread out. I also spotted several staff members rotating around to picnic tables with sanitizing spray, keeping things clean.

For the uninitiated, here is how a date to a u-pick farm works. Upon arrival, patrons grab a lightweight wheelbarrow or plastic bucket and then head into the vegetable patches along dirt pathways. Rain boots or sturdy shoes are a good plan for this muddy outing, but the experience is worth the mess. Children get to see first-hand where zucchini grow and twist ruby-toned apples from branches within the onsite orchard.

“It’s so beautiful!” a young girl exclaimed holding up a mud-streaked butternut.

And it was. The misty morning, the smiles on her family’s faces, and even the humble autumn vegetable she held were beautiful. She was also learning to appreciate food and the dirt from whence it came, and this seemed like a very important and wholesome lesson.

Corn and squash are great, but let’s be honest, the real draw at any farm this time of year is the plump rust-colored pumpkin. Bailey Farm is unique in that it offers both u-pick veg and u-pick pumpkins, a more complete experience than your average patch. In the fields, there were fancy white Lumina pumpkins popping like pearls from between the vines, plus the classic orange option, a perfect choice for your latest jack-o-lantern designs. In fact, the farm boasts 75 varieties of pumpkins for you to peruse and then chop from the vine.

Once you’re done gathering, your bounty is weighed and priced at one of several checkout stands spread throughout the property.

An intriguing Pumpkin Barn is a real hit with the under-7 crowd and anyone with an active inner child. Here, thrones made of hay bales make for cute photo opts and proof that you left your house and embraced a socially distanced Sunday-Funday.

Wide corn maze at Carpinito

Of course, Bailey is not the only pumpkin show in town. South of Seattle is the much-acclaimed Carpinito patch in the Kent Valley. Not only does this farm provide a sea of pumpkins to choose from, they also create an annual corn maze. This year’s maze design? The Kraken. Plus, in response to COVID-19, they have widened their maze paths to allow for social distancing. It all feels like a supremely healthy day out. There’s lots of walking in the fresh fall air, a bit of pumpkin weight-lifting, and maybe even some mental stimulation as you try to find your way out of the corn-maze puzzle. Carpinito’s charges $5 to access their grounds (and gourds), but not to worry, this fee will go toward any pumpkin purchase, and you will surely bring at least one or two beauties home with you.

Scavenger hunt at Bloedel Reserve

Finally, the Bloedel Reserve puts on a Super Squash Scavenger Hunt this month, an autumn tradition at the Bainbridge garden retreat since 2011. Organizers hide over 30 varieties of squash around the grounds, all grown onsite in the Bloedel greenhouse by a man nicknamed the “Gourd Guru.” Armed with maps, visitors try to find all the gourds they can, from the tiny Sweet Dumpling variety to the mammoth Dill’s Atlantic Giant, a pumpkin that will be hard to miss. There are prizes to be won and—gourds aside—the opportunity to spend the day at a truly special place walking its many manicured pathways. Staggered ticketing at Bloedel keeps the reserve free of crowds and COVID-safe.

Image by Juanmonino