Farms Abound with Colorful Gourds for Halloween and Holiday Decorating
Sonoma-Marin Farm News, October 2011
Story by Tim Tesconi
Fall has been described as the most habitable season of the year and that description certainly holds true in Sonoma County where the agricultural bounty offers a comforting cornucopia of sensual delights.
Fall brings the smell of fermenting grapes, the crunch of corn stalks and fields of colorful gourds – all cast in the shadowy slant of the afternoon sunlight. This is the time to hit the trail to pick a pumpkin or two at one of the many farms that stretch from Healdsburg to Petaluma. These pumpkin farms are mom-and-pop operations, offering the chance to enjoy a family outing – even a picnic – while finding the perfect orb to carve into a Jack-o-Lantern or just prop on the front porch.
While on the pumpkin trail, stop at country outlets along the back roads of Sonoma County to purchase fresh produce, cheese and meat for a fall dinner that celebrates the best of Sonoma County. And, of course, accompany it with glass of Sonoma County wine, preferably, a Harvest Fair medal winner.
Muelrath Ranches, owned and operated by Bob Muelrath, is one of the farms on October’s pumpkin trail. Muelrath offers 21 varieties of pumpkins, everything from midget to giant orbs and colors that span the fall palette. He also grows an assortment of other natural home-grown fare for fall decorating including ornamental corn, corn stalks, winter squash and sunflowers.
Muelrath, a director and past president of Sonoma County Farm Bureau, started growing pumpkins on cow pastures after he got out of the dairy business. The family ranch, located at 3800 Walker Avenue in southwest Santa Rosa, has become part of Sonoma County’s growing agri-tourism market, which brings city folks to the farm to not only purchase produce but a farm experience.
Muelrath said he strives to produce high quality, freshly picked products that are grown on site, sustainably farmed and are pesticide free.
“Our Pumpkin Patch is unique both for the quality of our pumpkins and the size of our patch,” said Muelrath. “We have become known for the range of pumpkin colors and varieties we offer.”
In addition to the on-farm sales, Muelrath’s fall decorations are used at wineries, festivals and restaurants and at weddings with an autumnal theme.
The Muelrath pumpkin patch offers great family fun where kids can climb a haystack or wander through a hay tunnel to a spooky dungeon. Get lost in a cornstalk maze, take a hay ride or test your aim with the “pumpkin slingshot.”
“Friday Night in the Pumpkin Patch” is held from 3 to 9 p.m. every Friday during October at the Muelrath Ranch. Admission is $10 and includes “Campfire in the Corral” where guests can roast a hot dog or marshmallows, have some hot cider and cookies, and take a night time hay ride. It’s advised that you call ahead for reservations (707-585-2195) because space is limited for these Friday night gatherings on the farm.
In Petaluma, there are a number of places to get a pumpkin and experience the farm atmosphere. The Great Peter Pumpkin Patch, owned and operated by rancher-entrepreneur Larry Peter, is an old-fashioned delight for anyone hankering to return to Grandpa’s farm. A working dairy, the Peter Pumpkin Patch offers visitors the chance to not only pick a pumpkin but to dig for potatoes, milk a cow and eat cheese and ice cream while soaking up the fall weather in the agricultural-rich Two Rock Valley. Here cows outnumber commuters.
The Great Peter Pumpkin Patch is open from 9 a.m. until dusk every day through October 31. There is live music on the weekend. The farm is perfect for educational tours and field trips. For group reservations call (707) 762-3446.
The most visible pumpkin farm is, of course, the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch and Amazing Corn Maze along Highway 101 in Petaluma. Traffic slows as motorists gawk at the corn maze and other attractions including pony rides during busy weekends in October. Farmer Jim Groverman, a homegrown product himself, has created what has become a pumpkin festival on the 10 acre farm between Highway 101 and Stony Point Road. The entrance to the Pumpkin Patch is on Stony Point Road.
The farm features lots of pumpkins as well as a huge straw mountain for kids to climb and a farm animal petting zoo. The hours through October are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
In the northern part of Sonoma County, there is the Oluf Ranches’ Pumpkin Patch at 899 Shiloh Road in Windsor, CA. Rick Olufs, past president of Sonoma County Farm Bureau, has built a thriving business on his 40 acre farm along Highway 101 and in the path of urban development. During the fall, Olufs focuses on bringing families to his farm to scout for pumpkins and enjoy an agricultural experience. There is a hay pyramid, petting zoo, hay rides and face painting. The Olufs Pumpkin Patch is open from 1 p.m to dusk Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to dusk on weekends through October. To schedule a large group tour or for more information call (707) 838-7588.
Here is the Great Guide to Sonoma County Pumpkin Patches
Anderson Organic Vegetable Stand & Pumpkin Patch 2-acre corn maze, mini-train ride, U-pick pumpkins. Open weekdays noon-6 p.m., weekends 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 4588 Bodega Avenue at Skillman, Petaluma, CA. Phone 529-1270,
Adobe Pumpkin Farm — 6-acre corn maze, haunted house, gift shop. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 2478 E. Washington St. at Adobe Road, Petaluma, CA. Phone 763-6416.
Grandma's Pumpkin Patch — Hay pyramid, corn field, climb-on tractors. Open daily 10 a.m. to dusk, 17740 Healdsburg Ave at Lytton Springs Rd, Healdsburg, CA. Phone 431-8058.
Great Peter Pumpkin Patch — Dig potatoes, milk a cow, baby animal petting zoo, U-pick pumpkins, hay pyramid, pumpkin ice cream, tractor rides, picnic areas, live music on weekends, no activity/entrance/parking fees. Open daily 9 a.m. to dusk. Spring Hill Jersey Cheese Company, 4235 Spring Hill Rd., Two Rock/Petaluma, CA. Phone 762-3446. www.springhillcheese.com
Hale's Apple Farm — Pumpkins plus 30 varieties of apples and heirloom tomatoes. Open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 1526 Gravenstein Hwy. N., Sebastopol, CA. Phone 823-4613.
Muelrath Ranches Pumpkins — Hay tunnel, corn maze, pumpkin slingshot. Open Monday – Thursday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Fridays, 3 -9 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., 3800 Walker Ave., Santa Rosa, CA. Phone 585-2195.
Oluf's Ranch Pumpkin Patch — Hay maze & rides, animal corral. Open Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for school and groups; 1 p.m. to dusk for the general public; Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. to dusk, 899 Shiloh Rd., Windsor, CA. Phone (707) 838-7588.
Petaluma Pumpkin Patch & Amazing Corn Maze - pumpkins, pumpkin patch-pick in the field, pumpkin patch- already gathered from the field, corn maze, prepicked produce, snacks and refreshment stand, restrooms, picnic area, petting zoo. 550 Stony Point Road, Petaluma, CA 94952. Phone: 707-781-3132. Free parking & free admission to the pumpkin patch Sunday- Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday- Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Corn maze closes at 9:30 p.m. Don't miss the Friday & Saturday "Night Maze". www.petalumapumpkinpatch.com
Peterson's Pumpkins - Pumpkins, tomatoes, honey. 636 Gossage Avenue, Petaluma, CA. 94952. Phone: 707-765-4582. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in October.