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The October Pumpkin Patch at Ardenwood

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 historic park, featuring the historic Perry Farms, in Fremont, California.

ardenwood350Already I dream of returning next October, with my son Paul and his son Paulje, 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. I hope that next year I will again be 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, all this 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 Joe builds 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 with Joe Perry.

Perry, who is in his 70s, takes the wagon of city slickers out to a remote corner of the farm, away from the din of the pumpkin patch, to impart his heartfelt dream about the farm.

Joe explains how he went organic long, long ago, and why, before the term “organic” became commercial. He talks 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. He parades out all the 70 crops grown here, from chard to cauliflower. Joe is the real deal, the real McCoy, the man who has been living out this ideal of urban farming. He is the hard-working high priest of the plowed field. Most of his 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 I find most special. I’ll be back next October to gather up the family pumpkins. I only hope 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, Small admission fee. More on the entire Ardenwood historic park can be seen at

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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 .

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2 Responses to “The October Pumpkin Patch at Ardenwood”
  1. Krista says:

    Unfortunately, this once priceless family experience now has a hefty price tag! I have been coming to this family pumpkin patch since a child myself, so I knew once it was time to take my own children, Perry Farms would be the place. It has changed! This year, for the first time, they decided to charge an entrance fee – when your entire family comes to be a part of a special memory, it adds up! The least they could do, is take it off the price of a purchased pumpkin, but they don’t do that. Do you know they even charge you if your pumpkin has a stem? Yup, that pumpkin with a STEM costs an extra $2.00!!! I thought pumpkins were supposed to have stems! The quality and quantity of pumpkins this year was really poor! And for the first time ever, there were cardboard boxes full of pumpkins like you see at the grocery store. I keep thinking, this just isn’t right – did they supplement their stock with outside pumpkins – because the ones we saw were either rotten, dented, had holes in them, crushed, etc. not the Perry Farms quality I grew up with. Very disappointed! We will be finding another patch to frequent next year for sure! They have lost this lifetime customer with their overpriced and poor quality pumpkin patch experience!

  2. Lee Foster says:

    Thanks for your notes. This was a very good experience when I went a couple of years ago. I hope they return the experience to what I recall.

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