Exploring The Last Green Valley: Farms offer fun during Walktober

Some of the many family-fun activities during The Last Green Valley’s Walktober are the events, tours and walks organized by our region’s farms during the glorious month of October.

The farms, orchards, and vineyards of The Last Green Valley are important partners in keeping our precious land open and productive. We should be grateful they are in our communities and thankful for the part they play in making our region special. They contribute to the quality of life we all enjoy as residents of the national heritage corridor. I hope you’ll find time during Walktober to visit one or more of our farm friends.

Some farms are offering special fee events during Walktober:

Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm in Sterling is the largest free-range turkey farm in Connecticut, and on Saturdays and Sundays during September and October, the farm offers a giant corn maze for your enjoyment. There is an admission charge for the maze, but it includes hayrides, a barnyard tour and free ice cream. They will also be hosting a Harvest Festival on Columbus Day weekend, including kids’ games, a bounce house, hayride, face painting, barnyard animals, hula-hoops, pumpkin patch, pumpkin painting and more for the kids. Ekonk Hill is at 227 Ekonk Hill Rd., Sterling. Call 860-564-0248 for more information or visit www.ekonkhillturkeyfarm.com. 

Fort Hill Farms in Thompson also has a spectacular corn maze during September and October. Fort Hill Farms is part of the Farmer’s Cow cooperative and the theme this year is Sustainability and the Tree of Life, where you’ll learn how The Farmer’s Cow farms’ practices are sustaining their natural resources and preserving this beautiful earth. Fort Hill is at260 Quaddick Rd., Thompson. Call 860-923-3439 or check its website at www.forthillfarms.com for more information.

During the month of October, Cedar Ledge Tree Farm in Mansfield offers Fall Family Fun. You can pick a pumpkin, take a tractor ride, slide down “mulch” mountain and enjoy the pedal carts, playscape and sand pile. They are at 260 Coventry Road, Mansfield. Call 860-423-5690 or visit www.cedarledgetreefarm.com for more information.

Creamery Brook Bison farm has been a longtime partner with The Last Green Valley, and they always offer very popular tours during Walktober. This year, on Oct. 21, 22, 28 and 29 it also has a fun event called Pumpkin Tours. Visitors to this unique agricultural business — a bison farm — enjoy a wagon ride to see the bison, pick a pumpkin and then get to decorate it. Craft and decorating supplies are provided for a great fun adventure with your family. There is a charge of $10 per person. Creamery Brook Bison is located at 19 Purvis Road, Brooklyn. Call 860-779-0837 or visit www.creamerybrookbison for more information.

Several farms are also offering up free events this year. Here is a sampling:

Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Woodstock Sustainable Farms is having an open house and free farm-to-table lunch at noon. The lunch requires a reservation, but guests are also invited to bring a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy the activities and scenery. There will be music, games, face painting, and farm tours! This family-friendly event celebrates the preservation of local food and culture. Visit www.wssfarms.com, email paige@wssfarms.com or call 888-788-8726 for more information. Woodstock Sustainable Farms is at 211 Pulpit Rock Road, Woodstock.

Buell’s Orchard welcomes you to its annual Harvest Festival on Columbus Weekend, Oct. 7-9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The whole family will enjoy music, hayrides, food, and much more. Admission is free, but you may want to spend a little to pick some apples, pumpkins and local delights. They are at 108 Crystal Pond Road, Eastford. For more information, call 860-974-1150 or check their website at www.buellsorchard.com.

Lapsley Orchard again will be celebrating their annual Fall Harvest Festival on Columbus Weekend, Oct. 7 – 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Enjoy free hayrides along with live music. Entry is free, but there are tons of apples, cider, pumpkins and more for picking and purchase.

They are at 403 Orchard Hill Road, which is Route 169, in Pomfret Center. Call 860-928-9186 for details or check the website at www.lapsleyorchard.com.

On Oct. 7 you may want to check out the 4th Annual BIG little Apple Festival at the Killingly Grange Hall at 801 Hartford Pike, in Killingly. Enjoy all things fall harvest and apples at this popular annual event. Festivities include: an apple pancake breakfast, live music, a “Salon De McIntosh” art show, reenactors, traditional crafts, primitives, children’s activities, chrysanthemums, apple pies, pumpkins, candy apples, cider & donuts, apple sauerkraut hot dogs and a basket raffle. Admission is free, but great stuff will be available for purchase. Learn about the Killingly Grange and the other events it offers all year long. For more information, call 860-705-3643 or check its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/KillinglyGrange.

On Oct. 14, 15, 21 and 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Devon Point Farm in Woodstock is offering up cider, donuts, pumpkins and fun at its Fall Open House. You can tour a hard-working and unique farm, taste their raw apple cider, learn about the antique 1898 apple cider press, and enjoy the fall foliage and learn about their heritage breed Devon cattle. Devon Point Farm is at 54 Joy Road, Woodstock. For more information, call 860-974-9004.

On Oct. 14 from 2-4 p.m. enjoy a free event at Atwood Cider Farm as they press cider the 19th century way. Come with the family as apples are gathered in the orchard and taken to the cider press to make cider for the winter months. Atwood Farm is part of the headquarters of Joshua’s Trust and is at 624 Wormwood Hill Road, Mansfield Center. For more information, call Joshua’s Trust office at 860-429-9023 during their office hours of Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 5 p.m. or email activities@joshuastrust.org.

One of our more popular Walktober events is being held Oc. 21 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Cushman Farms in Lebanon. Moos and More Walktober Ice Cream Social and Farm Tour is your chance to visit the cows, taste Farmer’s Cow ice cream and admire Walktober colors overlooking a lovely valley vista. There’s an optional hike through the woods and field at 2 p.m., too. No dogs, no pets, no strollers, please. Cushman Farms is at 393 Lebanon Road, Franklin. Call 860-642-4020 or visit www.thefarmerscow.com/our-farms-cushman.php for more information.

Our region’s farms also host Walktober walks. Here are several for you to consider:

On Oct. 5 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Pine Hill Alpaca Farm in Sterling has a walk called The Curious Alpaca. Enjoy meeting the alpacas, learn about the history and care of these inquisitive animals and about the uses for their fleece. They’ll have a spinning demonstration, plus the farm store will be open with yarn and alpaca products for sale. Bring your camera to take pictures of your children with the curious alpaca. The walk repeats Oct. 6. Pine Hill Alpaca Farm is at 148 Pine Hill Road, Sterling. For more information, call 860-564-7204 or check their website at www.pinehillalpacafarm.com.

One of the perennial family-favorite Walktober walks is Where the Buffalo Roam, held every Walktober at Creamery Brook Bison farm. This year it is scheduled for Oct. 7 from 10-11:30 a.m. The walk also repeats Oct. 9. You’ll get you chance to see a real bison up close and learn about the bison handling facilities at the farm. Warm up after the walk with Wild Rice and Bison Soup. Participants are reminded to wear walking shoes that can get dirty. Creamery Brook Bison is at 19 Purvis Road, Brooklyn. For more information, call 860-779-0837 or check its website at www.creamerybrookbison.info.

On Oct. 9 a popular walk returns with the Farm Leaf Hunt at Gray Ledge Tree Farm in Plainfield. Enjoy your quest for fall foliage color. Find and identify hardwood tree species by their colorful fall leaves, using the “Plant Science 101” approach. Bring something to collect (and later preserve) your finds. How many different species will you be able to find? The leader is a retired teacher and still leads the scouts. He knows how to connect kids of all ages to nature. This is a scenic location. You may want to consider returning for the “How to Grow A Christmas Tree” walk Oct. 15 from 10-11:30 a.m. Gray Ledge Tree farm is at 210 Lathrop Road in Plainfield. Call 860-654-8769 for more information, or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Gray-Ledge-Tree-Farm-456280431086821/.

On Oct. 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. you want to check out Farm Fields and Dairy Critters with the Brooklyn Agriculture Commission and Kingswood Farm. The walk is at 289 Providence Road in Brooklyn, and participants are asked to park along the edge of the driveway. You’ll walk along corn and grass fields and learn about the feed harvested by Kingswood Farm for its dairy animals. There’s a barn and livestock tour upon return to the farmstead. For more information, call 860-230-4395 or visitwww.brooklynct.org/agriculture-commission.

Walktober is here and there are many opportunities to get out and enjoy our beautiful region. Don’t forget the many farm events and walks, and make sure to thank the farmers you meet for all they do keeping our working lands open and productive right here in The Last Green Valley.

Bill Reid is the chief ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. He has lived in the region for more than 30 years and can be reached at bill@tlgv.org