When the fall season returns to Long Island, many farms west of the East End offer just as much as those far out in Suffolk.
"We are a small family farm, so we start early setting up the activities," says Jean Schmitt, owner and manager of Albert H. Schmitt Family Farms in Dix Hills. For them, that means making sure the tractors are ready to pull hayrides, harvesting, cleaning, polishing and smaller but still vital fixes like putting a new motor in the corn roaster.
Even a casual visitor to a farm or farm stand in autumn might also notice the food, drink, sweets and plants for purchase, which is especially clear on a smaller spot like Schmitt’s. "People like our small farm vibe," according to Schmitt. "It allows them to heighten their senses with visuals of sunflowers, pumpkins, and mums with smells of fresh-baked pies and doughnuts without the sensory overload of big crowds and traffic."
For some fall farm fun in central Long Island, here are a few farms featuring more than fruits and veggies:
Albert H. Schmitt Family Farms
Families can enjoy hayrides or jump on the "animal train" (cars designed like animals, pulled by a tractor) for a trip around the farm. Photo opportunities await within the pumpkin patch, which will also host the farm’s signature "duck races," where kids can use water pumps to race rubber duckies. Things to buy include fresh-baked pies, apple cider doughnuts, homegrown roasted corn and cool-weather plants like cabbages, kale, winter survivor pansies and mums, as well as décor items like cornstalks and hay bales. Look for an Apple Pie Moscow Mule mocktail.
INFO 6 Bagatelle Rd., Dix Hills; 631-549-3276, schmittsfamilyfarms.com. Farm admission, parking and cart rentals are free; entrance to the pumpkin patch is $5.
White Post Farms of Melville
Equipped with zoo animals, a garden center and a farm market, a visit means lots to do. Come the fall, guests can look forward to pumpkin picking, singalong hayrides and a hay play space. Live entertainment — such as performances by magician Jim McClenahan, an agriculturally inspired puppet show, dog show and an interactive family game show — is also a major draw. The season ends with a costume parade on Halloween weekend.
INFO 250 Old Country Rd., Melville; 631-351-9373, whitepostfarms.com. Fall festival runs weekends and Columbus Day until Oct. 31. Admission is $32.95, children under 15 months in age are admitted free; tickets are available online in advance. Pony and train rides, pumpkins and feed for animals and birds are available at additional costs.
A small suburban ranch and green space where people can sit and eat only a few feet from where plants are grown, Kerber’s is featuring a new farm school on varying Tuesdays and Thursdays through Oct. 26. The school will provide all-ages with instruction in subjects such as cooking, gardening and sustainability. Some new animal residents have been added in time for the season, including a pair of Nigerian dwarf goats and a duo of miniature potbellied pigs. As for the menu, look for the farm’s coveted cheddar-buttermilk biscuits, its signature homemade apple pies and apple jam, as well as apple cider doughnuts plus quiches and spinach pie. Apple pie kits are also for sale, which come with Kerber's pie filling and crust mix.
INFO 309 W Pulaski Rd., Huntington, 631-423-4400, kerbersfarm.com
Located on a lengthy side street between Pine Aire Drive and the Southern State Parkway, it might come as a surprise when you drive through the neighborhood and spot mountain goats staring down at you from a perch behind a hedge. The 12-acre working farm on the other side of the leafy fence will launch its Fall Harvest on Oct. 9 and will offer pumpkin picking, hayrides, a playground, pony rides and farm animal feeding, as well as characters to meet plus magic shows and live music on weekends. The plant nursery will be open, and the country store will be selling things like roasted corn on the cob, cookies, cider doughnuts, mums, straw bales, pumpkins, gourds and Halloween décor. Grill food will be available at the concession stand.
INFO 1624 Manatuck Blvd., Bay Shore; 631-665-5411, brightwatersfarms.com. Open Wednesdays through Sundays (and Columbus Day) until Oct. 31. Admission is free weekdays, $10 weekends and Columbus Day (under one year of age in free: includes the live entertainment, characters, playground and unlimited hayrides).
Waterdrinker Family Far
It’s close to the East End, but isn't quite as far out as most. Waterdrinker is located in a rural zone just south of the LIE at Exit 69, so unlike its suburban companions there’s a lot of wide-open space here; this helps allow for a sunflower field (which will be available as long as the plants survive) and a haunted corn maze. Attendees can also try jump pads and play mini-golf, and there are farm animals to see plus tractor pedal cars, lawn games and a wooden playground.
INFO 663 Wading River Rd., Manorville; 631-878-8653, water-drinker.com. Admission is $15, free for kids age two and younger; prices and hours are subject to change without notice.
F&W Schmitt’s Family Farm
This family-owned and operated farm just off Route 110 has a busy fall festival underway that rolls out seven days a week. Weekdays through Oct. 29, the farm will offer the picking of pumpkins, sunflowers and veggies, a farm stand and pumpkin wagons for added fees. The $10 general admission does include hayrides, mini-golf and photo opportunities. Come weekends, patrons can pay extra for the picking options plus a petting zoo, concessions, a farm animal petting zoo, a seven-acre "Wizard of Oz"-themed corn maze, a daytime haunted house experience, a not-scary haunted corn trail walk-thru and a straw pyramid billed as the largest on Long Island.
INFO 26 Pinelawn Rd., Melville; 631-271-3276, schmittfarms.com. Tickets available at the door only; children under 16 months old get in free.