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The City Slicker's Guide to Pumpkin Picking

By Jill Colvin | October 26, 2011 2:44pm
A proud Mariah Matos, 8, shows off her pumpkin, which she hoped to carve into a scary face.
A proud Mariah Matos, 8, shows off her pumpkin, which she hoped to carve into a scary face.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MANHATTAN — Hunter College student Heather Geiger could have swung by her local supermarket for a pumpkin to decorate this Halloween.

But instead, she and boyfriend Steven Herbst loaded into his car and made the trek from her Upper East Side dorm to Staten Island, where Decker Farm's pumpkin patch awaited, along with hayrides and a petting farm.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Geiger, 19, grinning as she clutched two tiny pumpkins, which she planned to paint with faces. She was waiting to channel her inner child on an old-fashioned hayride, something she hadn’t enjoyed since first grade.

“This is way more authentic,” said Herbst, 23, an urban farm enthusiast, who also volunteers at Brooklyn’s Bushwick City Farm, of their afternoon getaway, compared with a local shopping trip.

While living in Manhattan often means giving up suburban staples such as backyards and minivans, kids (and kids at heart) might be surprised to realize that there are numerous places to pick-your-own pumpkin just a subway, ferry or train ride away.

Staten Island:

Deep in the heart of Staten Island, Historic Richmond Town’s Decker Farm offers families their choice of pumpkins big and small, as well as a host of attractions, including goats and a pony to feed, dozens of chickens clucking around, staffers dressed in 1800s costumes and a fall market complete with carving supplies and seasonal baked goods, including brownies and pumpkin pie.

“It’s a respite away from the hectic city where you can relax and get to nature,” said Bruce DiSimon, 50, a freelance sales representative from Staten Island who works in Manhattan, and whose wife, Elisa, volunteers at Historic Richmond Town.

She said that, because public funding has shrunk, the farm is looking to attract new visitors, especially from Manhattan.

“You don’t have to go to New Jersey,” DiSimon said.

For families on a recent afternoon, the taste of farm life was a treat.

Mariah Matos, 8, proudly held her round, orange prize, which she hoped to carve into a “scary face.”

Nine-month-old Olivia, who lives across the street, celebrated her first Halloween at the patch — but was more excited by the goats.

“She hates pumpkin but she loves the animals,” explained mom Jaimee Weiss, 28, whose daughter will be dressed as either a leopard or a zebra on October 31st.

“She cried when we made her touch the big ones [pumpkins]!” Weiss said.

Directions: Decker Farm is located at Historic Richmond Town at 441 Clarke Ave. in Staten Island. To access the farm by public transit, take the Staten Island Ferry from Lower Manhattan and then the S74 bus 30-minutes to Richmond Road and St. Patrick's Place. There, a free shuttle runs every five minutes to and from the farm. The farm is open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 and covers the shuttle and hayride.


For more haunted fun just a subway ride away, head over to the Queens County Farm Museum. Dating back to 1697 and spread across 47 acres, the farm dubs itself as “the only working historical farm" in the city.

In addition to historic farm buildings and live stock, the museum goes all-out for Halloween, with a pumpkin patch as well as giant corn maze, hayrides and a haunted house.

The farm will be holding its annual Fall festival This Sunday, Oct. 30, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kids are invited to wear their costumes for a day of fun and frights, including sack races, trinket-in-a-haystack finds, a petting zoo, pig races and pony rides. For older visitors, the festival includes craft vendors, seasonal goodies, country music and dancing.

“It’s Halloween-themed. We have characters in costumes that walk around. It’s a wonderful atmosphere for kids,” said the farm’s education coordinator, Kristin Allocco, who assured there are still plenty of pumpkins, which are shipped in from other farms, left for the picking.

Directions: The Queens County Farm Museum is located at 73-50 Little Neck Parkway in
Floral Park, New York. To access the farm by public transit, take the E or F Train to Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike Station. Then take the Q46 Bus eastbound to Little Neck Parkway Stop. Cross Union Turnpike and walk three blocks north on Little Neck Parkway, where you’ll find the entrance. The farm is also accessibly via Long Island Railroad. See full directions here.

Admission to the festival is $5, with additional charges for hay and pony rides and admission to the haunted house and corn maze, which costs $9 for adults and $5 for kids 4 to 11. Aside from the festival, the pumpkin patch is open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Halloween Haunted House, recommended for kids aged 4 to 12, will be open 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday Oct. 29 through Monday, Oct. 31. Admission is $4.


Hudson Valley:

Want to pick your own pumpkin without all the kitch? The 60-year-old Greig Farm in Red Hook, New York, offers a more rustic experience, with pumpkin patches as well as pick-your-own blueberries, blackberries and apples. (Current varieties include Macintosh, Jonamac, Honey Crisp and Gala.)

“What a fun harvest we are having! Tons of pumpkins. Literally. Pumpkin-o-rama. And of course, crunchy, juicy apples,” the farm tweeted Saturday.

Directions: Greig farm is located at 223 Pitcher Lane in Red Hook, N.Y., and is accessible via Amtrak. From Penn Station, take the train to the Rhinecliff station, about 6 miles south of the Village of Red Hook. Taxis can then be taken to Greif farm from the station.

The farm is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. The farm also operates a market, which is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursdays through Mondays.

Long Island:

About an hour away in Oceanside, New York, is Dees’ Nursery and Florist. The family-owned farm, which has been in operation since 1958, offers pick-your-own pumpkins, as well as a petting zoo, pony rides, kids crafts, facepainting and storytime as part of its weekend farm festival.

Directions: The farm is located at 69 Atlantic Ave. in Oceanside, N.Y. To get there by train, take the Long Island railroad from Penn Station to East Rockaway or Rockville Centre. The farm is about a 15 minute walk or 5 minute drive from East Rockaway or a 10 minute ride on the N15 bus from Rockville Centre.

The Fall Festival runs Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you're really up for an adventure and don't mind a bit of a trek, Borellas Farm Stand in St. James, New York, offers pick our own-pumpkins straight from the vine, as well as hayride tours, a corn maze and other Halloween Fun spread out over 53 acres.

Partner Laura Gallagher assured there are still plenty of pumpkins left to choose from.

“It's never too late to get a pumpkin. The pumpkins are gorgeous. And it's a great day out for the family, especially if you’re coming out from the city," said Gallagher, who warned pumpkin-seekers to dress warmly, since it can get muddy out in the field.

The farm's Harvest Fall Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, with hayrides, a corn maze, live DJ, pony rides, bounce houses, face painting and goodies, including apple cider and pies, as well as a full BBQ with hamburgers, hot dogs and hot roasted corn.

Directions: The farm is located at 485 Edgewood Ave. in Saint James, N.Y. To get there, take the Long Island Railroad's Port Jefferson line to Smithtown. The farm is about a five minute cab ride away. Admission is $10 and kids under 3 are free.

All pumpkin pickers are advised to call ahead for availability and hours, especially in the case of rain.