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The October Pumpkin Patch at Ardenwood in the San Francisco Bay Area

By Lee Foster

In only a few places in the U.S. can you find a large dedicated farming space right within a sprawling urban area, such as Ardenwood Park, featuring the historic Perry Farms, in Fremont, California.

ardenwood350Each year I contemplate returning in October, with my son Paul and his sons Paultje and Charlie, to gather up the family pumpkins and ride the hay wagon pulled by an authentic John Deere tractor, bought in the 1940s by the farmer, Joe Perry. In the first year of this pilgrimage, I was fortunate, as were many other urban folks across the generations in my hay wagon, to hear Joe Perry’s tales of farming in this urban environment.

Though Ardenwood functions all year as a demonstration farm for urban education, and basks in its relationship with the East Bay Parks system as an historic park, its energy at food production and public outreach peaks in October.

Then the fabled pumpkin patch is in full swing. Families have long traditions of coming here to choose a pumpkin and ride around in the hay wagon to learn about farming. Many of the pumpkins are grown right on the property in large plots. Many other colorful types of squash-family produce are also available. Wheelbarrows and small wagons assist customers carting the chosen pumpkins and squashes to the family car.

Kids like the large pyramid of hay bales that is built every year. Every kid seems to have an urge to climb to the top of the pyramid and tumble down the sides. There is a corn maze to wander around in. But the special feature of the place is the ride in the hay wagon and the choosing of a pumpkin.

The hay wagon takes city slickers out to a remote corner of the farm, away from the din of the pumpkin patch, to impart a heartfelt dream about the farm.

The hay wagon spokesperson explains how they went organic long, long ago, and why, before the term “organic” became commercial. There is talk about the taste of tomatoes that can be fully ripened right on the vine when the producer and consumer live in close proximity. The issue of sustainability comes up. The joy of watching plants grow and proceed through their brief, dramatic life cycles is emphasized. The spokesperson may parade out all the 70 crops grown here, from chard to cauliflower. The farm is a show place, of course, but here are elements of the real deal, the real McCoy, the people who have been living out this ideal of urban farming. The spokespeople are the hard-working high priests of the plowed field. Most of the audience has had no experience of food sourcing beyond a trip to the local supermarket.

Ardenwood is more than just the Joe Perry Farm, but that’s the part that is most special. Many families return each October to gather up the family pumpkins and glimpse at yesteryear. The legacy of Joe Perry will be there, forever, taking us around in the hay wagon, telling the good story one more time.


Perry Farms is at 34600 Ardenwood Boulevard in Fremont, CA, 510-791-0340, Here is the pumpkin patch link. Small admission fee and produce purchase fees. More on the entire Ardenwood historic park can be seen at

See Lee’s four Northern California books/ebooks on his Amazon Author Page.

See Lee’s books/ebooks
on his Amazon Author Page and in Independent Bookstores

The San Francisco area figures prominently in my book/ebook titled The Photographer’s Guide to San Francisco. My main book/ebook on Northern California is Northern California Travel: The Best Options. Those volumes, including some more on California, can be seen on my Amazon Author Page. My further books on Northern California are Back Roads California and Northern California History Weekends. One of my California books, Northern California Travel: The Best Options, is now available as an ebook in Chinese.

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Copyright © 2016 Lee Foster, Foster Travel Publishing. All rights reserved.

This article was written by Lee Foster of Foster Travel Publishing. Contact Lee at .

Lee has 250 worldwide travel writing/photography coverages, plus articles on publishing and literary subjects, for consumers to enjoy and for content buyers to license at

Lee’s latest books/ebooks include one on self-publishing, titled An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing: Why Self-Publishing May Be Your Best Option, and a literary memoir about growing up in Minnesota, titled Minnesota Boy: Growing Up in Mid-America, Mid-20th Century. Lee’s travel literary book/ebook, Travels in an American Imagination: The Spiritual Geography of Our Time, now exists also as an audiobook.

Lee’s travel books/ebooks, focused mainly on California, include Northern California Travel: The Best Options, now available also as an ebook in Chinese. Lee co-wrote and co-photographed a major book for publisher Dorling Kindersley (DK) in their Eyewitness Guide series, titled Back Roads California. Lee’s further current California titles are The Photographer’s Guide to San Francisco and Northern California History Weekends. All of Lee’s books can be seen on his website at and on his Amazon Author Page.

Lee's photo-selling website on PhotoShelter has 7,000 digital images for photo buyers to license. Buyers may be individuals looking for photos for their blogs, publications, and décor. Lee’s traditional markets have been travel magazines and travel PR entities looking for travel images. See the photos at and some licensing detail there at About.
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