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.
Already 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.
Copyright © 2014 Lee Foster, Foster Travel Publishing. All rights reserved.
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