While many used the rainy weather and raw temperatures as an excuse to stay indoors Sunday, Fair Lawn's Jon Roman saw it as an opportunity to find the ideal pumpkin.
“It might be bad, but there's no crowds,” said Roman as he helped his daughter, Abigail, 4, search for what she called, “The Great Pumpkin” at Alstede Farms.
Despite the cold and damp weather, the Chester landmark was bustling with farm-goers hoping to pick pumpkins, drink apple cider and partake in other fall festivities on the farm.
Kurt Alstede, owner and general manager, said rain is rarely a deterrent during the busy fall season.
“People want to be out in the fall,” Alstede said. “They've got their kids, they've only got a couple of days to be out, so even when the weather's inclement they get out.”
The Farm Store is open year-round and features home-grown pumpkins, apples and other produce as well as home-baked pies, homemade ice cream and homemade fudge. Cows, goats and geese line the path to the pick-your-own booth, poking their mouths and beaks through holes in the fence in the hopes of getting a handful of feed from those who pass by.
Alstede said the farm's ultimate goal is to provide a family-friendly environment where guests can experience many aspects of a farm, including produce, animals and outdoor fun. With 365 acres of preserved farmland, Alstede said each and every fall is different on the farm.
“Every year we look for new ways to make agriculture accessible,” Alstede said. “We have one of the longest hayrides and this year it's almost literally 2 miles long throughout the entire farm. And this year we have our giant corn maze that's 10 acres that celebrates the life of Lou Gehrig as our theme.”
“It's just fun, it's good entertainment,” said Roman, who came to the farm with his daughter for the first time three weeks ago to pick apples and came back for pumpkins. “It's different entertainment as opposed to just sitting at home.”
In addition to daytime fun, the farm offers nighttime festivities every Friday and Saturday night in October.
“We have family-friendly, non-spooky activities like the nighttime corn maze, an evening hayride and flashlight pumpking picking,” Alstede said. “We also have a campfire with unlimited hot and cold cider. It's a very popular event.”
Although the farm offers many attractions, Alstede said the farm's main event is still the produce, which includes more than 30 varieties of apples, grown from July through November. Although pick-your-own apple season is mostly over due to a shortage of apples in the Northeast, the farm still has eight varieties of apples for sale in the Farm Store as well as in baskets scattered throughout the orchard.
Nicole Polkowski, a school teacher from Flanders, said she appreciates the quality of the produce.
“Everything is fresh,” Polkowski said. “We like to bake everything fresh and make pies so we basically get everything here fresh and make it at home.”
Polkowski, who was visiting the farm with her 18-month-old nephew, Jason, said Alstede Farms became the family choice once Jason and his twin brother were born.
“There's so many fun things for the kids to do,” Polkowsk said. “We came here over going to another apple picking farm in town.”
Alstede said he plans many family-friendly and child-friendly activities with the hopes of filling the agricultural void prevalent in today's society.
“These kids want to want to see animals, they want to get on a hayride they want to go out and do activities because they don't have access to it anymore,” Alstede said. “It used to be a couple of generations ago everybody had a relative who had a farm and now that doesn't exist anymore. Most of these people will never come into contact with agriculture except with a visit to a place like ours.”
“It's just beautiful here,” Roman said. “It's really nice out here and the hayrides are fun, the corn mazes are fun plus they have the pony rides. I've tried different places but this is by far the best one I think.”
Alstede said that despite his responsibility to his land and crops, his customers are his first priority.
“At the end of a busy day if everybody's been safe, if everybody's had an enjoyable time and if guests are happy, it certainly makes us very happy," Alstede said.
The Alstede Farms Farm Store is open every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the corn maze and pick-your-own produce are open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.