Fall in the Midwest is one of the great privileges of slogging through our bitterly cold winters and humid, scorching summers. Harvest season brings the clear cerulean skies and spicy bite of cooler days and evenings. The bright colors of foliage are a feast for the eyes and the rainbow of ripe juicy fruits and vegetables available at every grocery store and farmer’s market leave dreams of pies and holiday meals dancing in our heads. Indiana sits at the top of the farming belt, and we are home to huge ranging fields filled with golden corn, green soybeans, orange pumpkins, red, yellow, and green juicy apples, and a whole range of other tasty treats, that the rest of the U.S. only gets to experience after the produce travels on the back of a truck for a day or more. Indianapolis, our capital and 14th largest metropolis in the country, has the unique benefit of being an urban center surrounded on all sides by vast amounts of rural countryside. The popular 100-mile diet is much less restrictive here in this locale, as even a shopper in a high rise apartment on Meridian can drive a half an hour and be in a corn field. This edition of Indiana Home and Travel (or Indiana Hills and Hollers as I am thinking of nicknaming this blog) focuses on the experience of picking your own food from local farms and orchards. As someone who grew up suburban/rural, one of our established family traditions from childhood to present day was the annual trips to the pumpkin patch and apple orchard. Fostering a close kinship with our state’s long illustrious farming culture is a great way to help your kids connect with our local history and culture. It is also a fun and inexpensive family activity, and provides a unique connection to the products many of us purchase at the store without giving thought to how they got there. As a Westside-r, there are a few favorite haunts I frequent this time of year, but fortunately you can find local farms and orchards on every side of town for you and your youngsters to get your pumpkin patch and cider fix. My personal recommendations are:
Beasley’s Orchard: 2304 E. Main St., Danville 46122 (12 miles west of Indy off Old US 36), phone 317-745-4876. Hours: Mon-Sat, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun, noon-6 p.m. Through Oct. 31. Admission: $5 per vehicle during Heartland Apple Festival.- This was my first pumpkin patch hayride when I was a youngster, and Beasley’s still provides all the fun of hunting up your own orange orb for the price of $3 per rider plus the cost of pumpkins every weekend in October. In addition to making some awesome family memories, you can also get horrendously and joyfully lost in their 8-acre corn maze or shop for some local organic goodies and apple related treats in the general store. The first two weekends in October they hold their Heartland Apple festival with Indiana wineries, artisans, dairies, and other vendors in attendance.
Anderson Orchard: 369 East Greencastle Rd., Mooresville 46158 (2 miles west of Mooresville on Main Street), phone 317-831-4181. Hours: Daily, 8 a.m.-dark. – Beasley’s has plenty of juicy apples hanging from their orchard within view of visitors, but unfortunately they tend to leave picking them to the professionals. If you are craving the juicy delight of a freshly picked bushel you will want to make the drive out to Anderson Orchard in Mooresville, for a $8-$12 you and the family get to wander the acres looking for the perfect picks, and reveling in sampling a few spicy and juicy treats along the way. Also they have an entire store full of fresh apple butter and other treats. Hay rides are also available for $3 a person on the weekends.
Waterman’s Farm: 7010 E. Raymond St., Indianapolis, phone 317-356-6995. Harvest Festival hours: Daily, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Through Oct. 31. Admission: $4 weekdays, $5 weekends, ages 2 and under free. – This little gem is actually on the far Eastside, but it is worth the drive for the free hayrides, the giant mechanized pumpkin eating T-Rex, and the delightful hay bale maze that is included in admission.
If you are looking for some other farms or orchards in your area check out the about.com article on Indianapolis area orchards, etc. here. Have a safe stay-cation at your local farm, and enjoy the bounty of the season. Happy fall y’all!