At harvest time, people are naturally drawn to the fields. We can’t help it, says Steve Weber, a third-generation farmer in Baltimore County.
“It was explained to me a number of years ago,” he says. “People have an inborn need to get back to the farm in the fall.” It’s a throwback, he says, “to a time when everyone worked during the harvest.” The source of this insight, he points out, “was a farm wife and also a psychologist—so I put some stock in it.”
But the thousands who, each weekend, visit Weber’s Cider Mill Farm—a stone’s throw from Perring Parkway—aren’t coming just for the agri-vibes: most take a bit of the scene home with them. Along with selling bales of hay and cornstalks popular for dressing up houses, Weber’s has become famous for its scarecrow-making classes. Each year, Weber buys stacks of flannel shirts and old denim jeans from a not-for-profit for his workshop participants to stuff with straw.
Weber may be onto something: There’s something about the fall, the transitional time of both lush produce and nascent decay, that inspires people to decorate their front stoops with ripe orange pumpkins and their lamp posts with brittle stalks of corn.
Local farmers understand this attraction, and are happy to indulge, throwing open barn doors, hitching up the teams for horse-drawn wagon rides, letting us wander their fields in pursuit of fall décor.
Sharp’s at Waterford Farm in Brookeville is all about pumpkins, says Cheryl Nodar, manager of the country store there. Farmer Chuck Sharp has been growing pumpkins in western Howard County for more than 40 years, she says, and sells not only to the visitors who come on fall weekends but also to local farms and festivals. Along with the pale-hued, oversized fruits favored for jack-o’-lanterns, says Nodar, the farm sells plenty of pumpkins for cooking—though she remains somewhat perplexed at the number of people who buy all manner of squashes and gourds “with no intention of cooking them.”
Nodar herself bakes a mean pumpkin pie and helps to educate the pumpkin-patch amblers about the fleshy fruit’s culinary potential. The farm sets up grills in October, offering slices of grilled pumpkins and squash, and Nodar likes to describe the centerpiece of her own Thanksgiving table: a squat, green Jarrahdale pumpkin, its seeds removed, stuffed with walnuts, honey, chopped apples, and apple cider. The recipe comes with the purchase of a pumpkin, she says.
Harman’s Farm Market is recognizable by the mural on the side of the wooden building in Churchville. Local zoning restrictions prohibit lettering on agricultural buildings, explains farmer Paula Harman, so the larger-than-life images of two happy farm boys (her sons) beckon travelers on Churchville Road. The farm’s fall activities tend to be low-key. “We’ve intentionally kept an old-fashioned touch,” says Harman, with activities like a straw-bale maze and wagon rides, plus a special pumpkin patch designed for families with small children. As for decorations, says Harman, “Except for the apples, everything we sell is grown here,” including straw bales, ornamental gourds and pumpkins, and corn shocks.
At Baugher’s Orchard & Farm store in Westminster, along with the pick-your-own pumpkin patch and tractor-pulled wagon rides to get you there, the cavernous farm store sells planters of mums in autumnal hues, dried corn, gourds, and home items such as pottery and candles. The place is also fully stocked with canning and preserving supplies, in case you’re inspired by the bins of apples and piles of produce for sale.
Finally, while decorating for fall, Maggie Wiles, nursery manager at Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian, suggests you should still be thinking spring. “Fall is the best time to plant anything and everything,” she points out. “A lot of people don’t believe that.” The fall plants she stocks at the nursery have thick roots, so once spring rolls around, “you’ll be amazed by the color,” she says. And, of course, lots of folks know enough about fall planting to put in some bulbs.
In our search for local farms that offer the goods for fall decorating (and more), we found lots of other destinations, too. Here are the ones we think are more than worth the drive:
Look for hay rides, pumpkin picking, a petting zoo, train rides, a corn maze, cider, and fall decorations. 4435 Prospect Rd., Whiteford 410-836-1140, applewoodfarm.org.
Baugher’s Orchard & Farm
Pick your own apples and pumpkins. There’s also a petting zoo, market with homemade ice cream, fresh-baked goods, jellies, jams, and produce, plus flowers and home décor items. 1015 Baugher Rd., Westminster, 410-848-5541, baughers.com.
There’s a corn maze, wagon rides to pick-your-own pumpkins, scarecrow making, pumpkin painting, apples, apple cider, and fall decorations. 550 Asbury Rd., Churchville, 410-734-4769, bradsproduce.com.
Shop for pansies, mums, pumpkins, cornstalks, and ornamental cabbages. Weekend entertainment includes a dog Halloween costume contest this month, live music, and corn maze. 391 West Bay Front Rd., Lothian, 410-867-9500, greenstreetgardens.com.
Harman’s Farm Market
Great place for local produce, hay rides to the pumpkin patch, straw maze, gourds, decorative winter squash, corn shocks, Indian corn, mums, and straw bales for fall decorating. 2633 Churchville Rd. (Rte. 22), Churchville, 410-734-7400, harmansfarm.com.
Sharp’s at Waterford Farm
Take hayrides to pick-your-own pumpkins, then check out the country store, farm animals, corn and cotton maze, and scarecrow making. 4003 Jennings Chapel Rd., Brookeville, 410-489-2572. sharpfarm.com.
Spring Meadow Farms
Enjoy playground, pony rides, and a farm market including cider, food, scarecrow making, and corn bundles, as well as outdoor and indoor decorations. 15513 Hanover Pike, Upperco, 410-239-8505. springmeadowfarms.com.
Weber’s Cider Mill Farm
Don’t miss the apple cider, baked goods, fudge, and ice cream, then check out the fall festival, wagon rides, hay maze, and scarecrow workshops. 2526 Proctor Ln., Parkville, 410-668-4488. weberscidermillfarm.com.