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Sussex Countian
  • Sussex families 'fall' into fun on local farms

  • For a decade, Keith and Dawn Lankford have been opening their Georgetown farm to local families, and fall is their busiest time of year.
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    • FUN ON THE FARM
      > Red Barn Country Store, 16570 Seashore Highway, Georgetown. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Closed Mondays. Corn maze, fall...
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      FUN ON THE FARM
      > Red Barn Country Store, 16570 Seashore Highway, Georgetown. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Closed Mondays. Corn maze, fall produce, barnyard animals, hayrides and children's speedway. Visit www.redbarncountrystore.com or call (302) 855-9768.
      > T.S. Smith & Sons, 8887 Redden Road, Bridgeville. Pick-your-own apples and pumpkins is open every Saturday and Sunday through October from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit www.tssmithandsons.com or call (302) 337-8271.
      > Mr. Pepper's Pumpkin Patch, 13500 Laurel Road, Laurel. Open through October, Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to sunset and Sunday from noon to sunset. Pick-your-own pumpkins, two-acre "jungle" corn maze, weekend hayrides and fall produce. Visit www.mrpepperspumpkinpatch.com or call (302) 245-8616.
      > Parsons Farms Produce, 30469 Parsons Road, Dagsboro. Open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Offers fall produce and mums, and is hosting a fall festival on Oct. 12. Visit the Parsons Farm Produce Facebook page or call (302) 732-3336.
  • For a decade, Keith and Dawn Lankford have been opening their Georgetown farm to local families, and fall is their busiest time of year.
    The Red Barn Country Store offers a corn maze, petting zoo, pumpkin patch, children's speedway and hayrides, all for just $5 per person.
    "We thought it would really be something for people to bring their kids here to see the animals because it's fun and it's educational," Keith Lankford said. "When we bought this place, God opened a door for us, so we try to open doors for other people, while putting smiles on their faces."
    Fall's cooler temperatures present ample opportunity for outdoor fun on local farms. State Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee said while some events are held in the summer months, Delaware farms tend to wait until fall to host festivals and open houses.
    "This is a new thing that's happened over the past 10 or 15 years as part of agritourism, or non-farm people getting a chance to see [how farms work]," Kee said.
    Corn mazes, Kee said, began cropping up around the same time as agritourism as a form of on-farm marketing.
    "They evolved because they are a fun thing for kids and families to do and they're an attraction to the farm," he said, adding some farmers are now using GPS technology to design and plot their corn mazes.
    The mazes are made in the summer while the corn stalks are only one to three feet high, Kee said. Farmers use a mower or rototiller to knock the corn down.
    Another fall agritourism attraction is pick-your-own pumpkins and apples.
    Unfortunately for most local farmers, Kee said the summer's record-breaking rainfall has stymied pumpkin harvests. Pumpkins are of good quality, but are low in numbers, he added.
    "There just aren't as many pumpkins per acre [as there usually are], but their quality is pretty good," Kee said. "I was out at three or four roadside stands over the weekend and they all had a good supply. I would recommend you buy them early because if you wait until Oct. 30, you may have trouble finding a pumpkin."
    Apple harvests, on the other hand, are booming.
    "We've had a very good apple crop," Kee said. "Virtually all the varieties farmers grow are in good supply."
    T.S. Smith & Sons, of Bridgeville, is Delaware's oldest commercial apple orchard and is the only farm in Sussex County that hosts pick-your-own apples.
    Greer Stangl, a spokesperson for T.S. Smith & Sons, said the farm's you-pick events, including those in the summer months, are popular because consumers want to feel a greater connection to the source of their food.
    Page 2 of 2 - "To be out on the farm on a beautiful fall day, hand selecting each apple to be used for making a pie is a much greater experience than something more passive like shopping at the grocery store," Stangl said. "We try to make that experience as easy, as accessible and as affordable as we can because we think these opportunities become fewer and fewer all the time."
    T.S. Smith & Sons is hosting an Apple Harvest Festival Oct. 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in conjunction with Bridgeville's Apple Scrapple Festival. The event will include farm tours, wagon rides, you-pick apples, helicopter rides, live music and more. For more information, visit www.tssmithandsons.com.
    T.S. Smith & Sons also offers pick-your-own pumpkins, as does Mr. Pepper's Pumpkin Patch in Laurel. Mr. Pepper's also features a two-acre "jungle" corn maze, weekend hayrides and fall produce like winter squash, gourds, corn shocks and straw.
    Parsons Farm in Dagsboro is holding a fall festival on Oct. 12 featuring events like make-your-own scarecrow, pumpkin bowling, face painting, pony rides, a petting zoo and more. For more information, visit the Parsons Farm Produce Facebook page.
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