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Animal trains, arm-painting and more activities for kids at Long Island farms this fall

Garden of Eve Organic Market in Riverhead, which has been open since the coronavirus pandemic began, on Saturday, Sept. 19 talked about some of their fun family-friendly fall activities. Credit: Randee Daddona

No need to give up roasted corn, perfect pumpkins or encounters with friendly ghosts this fall. These Long Island farms and nurseries are offering bring-your-own-mask, socially distanced fun.

Go moonlight pumpkin picking

Every Saturday in October from 6 to 9:30 p.m., families can enjoy moonlight pumpkin picking geared toward children ages 12 and younger at Organics Today Farm in East Islip. "We’re one of the few places you can come to at night and not be scared," says owner Mike Massina. "The whole place is decorated and lit up, but the pumpkin patch is dark." Families use their own flashlights in the pumpkin field.

Hayrides will be available -- the CDC recommends the safest hayrides are limited to family members only -- and a la carte refreshments include roasted corn, apple cider doughnuts and pumpkin muffins. Admission is $3 per person; hayrides are an additional $3 per person. Small pumpkins are $3.50, larger ones are 75 cents per pound. The venue is also open for pumpkin picking from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; there is no admission fee during the day. The farm is at 169 Washington St., East Islip; 631-480-6497, organicstodayfarms.com.

Choose a private experience

Still leery of a public festival? In addition to its public activities, Benner’s Farm in East Setauket is offering private group tours that include a guided walk through the farm, with children able to hold baby bunnies and see the pigs and sheep. It also includes a private hayride, and the group can be dropped off at the pumpkin patch at the end if they want to pick pumpkins to take home, says Jean Benner, co-owner.

The cost is $60 for up to five people; each additional person over five is an additional $10. Sign up at the website. The farm is at 56 Gnarled Hollow Rd., East Setauket; 631-689-8172, bennersfarm.com.

Ride the animal train

Because schools are on hybrid schedules and more people are home schooling, Albert H. Schmitt Family Farms in Dix Hills has opted to offer its fall activities seven days a week, says co-owner Jean Schmitt. "People have nothing to do. They’re looking for something outdoors; we’re going to balance safety and fun, with safety taking precedence," Schmitt says.

The farm will offer its tractor-pulled train ride, with seats decorated like animals, including a pig, goose and elephant. Kids can race rubber duckies, controlled by pumping water in a gutter, take a hayride, and, of course, pick pumpkins. Food offerings include roasted corn, cider doughnuts and candy apples.

Visitors pay $5 to enter the pumpkin patch, which includes rubber duck racing. Other entertainment is a la carte. The farm is at 6 Bagatelle Rd., Dix Hills; 631-549-3276, schmittsfamilyfarms.com.

Pick pumpkins — and sunflowers

A pick-your-own sunflower field joins the pumpkin patch at Garden of Eve Organic Farm and Market in Riverhead. Weekend offerings also include the Fun Field — with a bounce pad for the kids, hayrides, an air-powered potato cannon that shoots at targets, and animals including sheep, goats, pig, turkeys, chickens and ducks.

The Fun Field is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends, with hayrides running between 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Admission is $7.95 per person older than 2; sunflowers are $1 per stalk and pumpkins are 69 cents per pound. The potato cannon is $5 for three potatoes of ammunition. The on-site craft brewery is also open for mom and dad from noon to 6 p.m., says Even Kaplan-Walbrecht, owner. Garden of Eve is at 4558 Sound Ave., Riverhead; 631-722-8777, gardenofevefarm.com.

Meet a friendly ghost

Otto the Ghost returns to Hicks Nurseries in Westbury, with a new, animated story called "Otto’s Safe Adventure." The walk-through unfolds indoors. "This story is about Otto creating a pet parade for Halloween with his friends," says Karen Musgrave, marketing coordinator.

Families can experience Otto daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Nov. 1; to take a socially distanced picture with a friendly Otto, come on weekends between 10 a.m. to noon or from 1 to 4 p.m. "Otto is on a little stage surrounded by a little picket fence. We have x’s on the floor in front of the fence where it’s 6-feet away," Musgrave says.

It’s all free, but Hicks asks visitors to bring a nonperishable food item to donate to Long Island Cares. Refreshments can be purchased to go, including apple cider, kettle corn, pies, fudge-dipped doughnuts, fudge, character cookies and more. On weekends, The Hicks Food Truck will offer chicken tenders, roasted corn, French fries and hot dogs, also sold to go.

Due to COVID-19, the usual hayrides, crafts, games and visits with farm animals will not be available. Hicks is at 100 Jericho Tpke., Westbury; 516-334-0066. hicksnurseries.com.

Get an arm painted

Face painting doesn’t work too well when you’re wearing a mask, so Stakey’s Pumpkin Farm in Aquebogue will offer arm painting during this year’s weekend events, says co-owner Jim Stakey. Pumpkin picking, hayrides and a corn maze round out the activities — coronavirus put a kibosh on the usual duck racing, bounce house and cut-out-face photo placards, says a disappointed Stakey. Pets will not be allowed this year. "What a bag of rocks we’ve got to play with," Stakey laments.

Activities are pay as you go, with hayride and corn maze costing $7 per person each. Pumpkins will likely cost .69 cents per pound, Stakey says. Weekends and school holiday hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; weekdays are noon to 5 p.m. with all activities except arm painting available. The farm is at 70 West Lane, Aquebogue; 631-722-3467, stakeyspumpkinfarm.com.

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