Categories: Feature Story
      Date: Sep 25, 2008
     Title: Cropping Up

Farms and festivals celebrate harvest with an abundance of attractions

By Sami Arseculeratne Martinez

The time of harvest is celebrated in nearly every culture as the culmination of the growing season, a time of sharing bounty and reveling in the spirit of fun and relaxation that follows. These days, of course, fewer families make their living off the land, but Central New York’s rural roots still run deep.



The time of harvest is celebrated in nearly every culture as the culmination of the growing season, a time of sharing bounty and reveling in the spirit of fun and relaxation that follows. These days, of course, fewer families make their living off the land, but Central New York’s rural roots still run deep.

From mid-September through late October, the local calendar brims with a wealth of opportunities to celebrate the season of abundance and enjoy a good dose of outdoor fun before the snow flies. Several local farms, pumpkin patches and communities put on their own festival to mark autumn’s arrival each year. With petting zoos, horse and wagon rides, and fresh local produce for sale, it’s an easy outing for the whole family.

Some sites host unique attractions. One of the newer additions is at Golub’s Our Farm in Manlius, which boasts a 15-foot-tall trebuchet or catapult nicknamed Boris. Visitors can choose and load a pumpkin that owner Jimmy Golub then launches across a field where they explode upon impacting the ground.

Now in his third year of catapulting pumpkins, Golub has a smaller trebuchet, Boris’ baby brother Morris, which is used to launch pint-size pumpkins.

Golub’s Our Farm is a family-owned working farm that has been growing and selling fresh produce at a roadside stand since 1985. In 1988, they began adding rides, petting zoo and you-pick pumpkins.

Visitors to the Manlius farm can also explore a cornfield maze in the shape of a Fender Stratocaster guitar. Farm owner Jimmy Golub, who laid out his first maze in 2000, chose this year’s plan because of his appreciation for the instrument designed by Leo Fender in 1954.

“We provide directions to get you through the maze and if you don’t get lost you can make it through in about 20 or 30 minutes,” Golub says.
Corn mazes, which wind through acres of living plants, trace their roots to medieval Europe. But today’s mazes are the complex product of a process that uses aerial photography and intricate planting patterns to render a design into a field of corn.

Katrina and Russell Blanchard, owners of the Wolf Oak Acres in Oneida, spent the past year fine-tuning plans for this year’s corn maze, which is their first. The 10-acre maze features a political theme to commemorate this year’s presidential election. The maze also has an eagle and the words “Your vote counts 2008.”

“The maze is broken down into three distinct parts, with the beginning section geared for small kids with farm animal photos,” Katrina Blanchard says. “The entire maze takes about an hour using our map to guide you through.”

Along the way, trivia and important facts are posted at every junction. The maze is a learning experience as well as an exercise for the brain and body. Wolf Oak Acres also holds pig races and has a theater with skits.

“We have lots of hands-on activities,” said Blanchard, “and information on agriculture and a video on how corn mazes are made.”

At Tim’s Pumpkin Patch in Marietta, the maze is made not from corn but out of 600-pound bales of hay. Visitors of all ages can meander through the 100-by-100-foot covered “room” maze created by the hay, while others can choose to play hide and seek inside.

“We also have a nature trail that is built through the woods to the pumpkin patch,” says Erica Leubner, who co-owns the farm with husband Tim.

Tim’s Pumpkin Patch has a grain-bin play area for kids of all ages to play inside a vat of shelled corn and soybeans. “Kids just love to feel the grain in their hands and love to roll around in it,” Leubner says. They also have added a fossil bank where you can search for and dig your own 350 million-year-old fossil from a quarry on the farm. Fossil hunters sift through buckets of dirt to unearth tiny sea creatures preserved in pieces of rock.

If your plans include enjoying some of the delicious produce of Central New York, check out Abbott Farms in Baldwinsville for their you-pick berries, apples and pumpkins. Abbott’s also has a corn maze, wagon rides and more. Critz Farms in Cazenovia offers hayrides to pick-your-own apples and pumpkins as well as mums, gourds and other fall decorating items for sale. The family-owned farm also operates an eight-acre corn maze and a playground offers a place for tykes to burn off some energy.

The LaFayette Apple Festival, southwest of Syracuse, celebrates with an abundance of apples, Saturday, Oct. 11, and Sunday, Oct. 12.

Highlights include an arts and crafts show and apple pie baking contest. Local non-profit organizations offer food while hot or cold cider and fresh apple doughnuts and dumplings tempt the palate. The Apple Sample Station provides tastes of many different varieties of locally grown apples to learn which are best for baking, salads or eating fresh.

Dress in layers for the weather, wear comfortable walking shoes, and bring a yearning for agricultural adventure out to the farm. You’ll find a sense of discovery and an appreciation for the bountiful harvests of Central New York. And when the first flakes of snow begin to fall, the season of harvest abundance will have ingrained memories that will remain until next year. 


Agri-culture Club

Abbott Farms, 3275 Cold Springs Road, Baldwinsville (638-7783). Corn maze, wagon rides, superslide, face painting, concessions, apples and cider press, produce and berries. Open through Oct. 31: Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 6 p.m. $5 per person for festival activities.

Critz Farms,
3232 Rippleton Road, Cazenovia ((800) 442-3225). Corn maze, petting zoo, music and entertainment, concessions, hayrides, pumpkins, apples and cider, playground. Open through late October: Mondays through Fridays (not all activities available weekdays), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. $5 per person, free ages younger than 2, $25 per car maximum.

Golub’s Our Farm,
1590 Peth Road, Manlius (655-8453). You-pick pumpkins, hayrides, petting zoo, horse rides, Fender guitar-shaped corn maze, catapult and mini-catapult, picnic area. Open Oct. 4 through end of October: Saturdays and Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m., and Columbus Day (Monday, Oct. 13). $4 per person.

LaFayette Apple Festival, off Tully Farms Road, LaFayette. Saturday, Oct. 11, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 12, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entertainment, food court, pie baking contest, scarecrow contest, pony rides, craft sale, apples and cider. $4 per person.

Tim’s Pumpkin Patch, 2901 Rosehill Road, Marietta (673-9209). Straw maze, grain bin play area, farm animals, horse-drawn wagon rides, concessions. Open  through Oct. 31: daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free admission, $2 pumpkins, $1 and $2 rides.

Wolf Oak Acres,
6470 Creek Road, Oneida (762-3090). Corn maze with election theme, kiddie corral with activities, gem mining, corn cannons, slingshots, cow train, concessions, wagon rides. Open through Oct. 26: Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. $7.50 per person, free younger than 3, some activities at additional cost.