Friends prepare for the “Find the Wine & Beer” event inside Echo’s corn maze.##Photo provided
Pheasant Fields Farm will host its 17th annual Harvest Festival on a 20-acre family farm located between Ashland and Medford. ##Photo provided
At The MAiZE on Sauvie Island, this year s design is titled “Bridgetown.  ##Photo provided
E.Z. Orchards attracts kids and families from all around the northern Willamette Valley for its annual Harvest Fest. Find your perfect pumpkin in the scarecrow field, take a hayride and more. ##Photo provided

Corny Times Ahead

Amaze-ing farm fests and pumpkin patches, too

By Annelise Kelly

It may feel somewhat bittersweet to feel summer slip away, but autumn has plenty of rewards. Adults savor trees glowing in crimson and orange, a fresh vintage of wine underway, and a chance to pull out the wool sweaters and beanies. Kids can’t wait for Halloween, and all the exciting seasonal accompaniments like planning costumes and visiting the pumpkin patch to select the perfect blank slate for a jack o’lantern.

Lots of farms have turned the pumpkin errand into a destination for the whole family, with hayrides, corn mazes, games, petting zoos, doughnuts, bonfire and more. Some places have even realized mom and dad wouldn’t mind a glass of wine or a beer during these festive outings. From toddlers to tweens to teens, there’s something for kids of all ages.

We’ve rounded up six farms that have elevated the humble pumpkin patch into a seasonal spectacle. Celebrate the season of harvest and haunting by packing up the kids and visiting one, or hunt online for more options hosted by farms, towns and organizations. Buy tickets in advance when possible to ensure that you’ll get in, and please follow the Covid-19 protocols of each establishment. Days and hours vary, so check websites. Some locations require advance tickets.

Pheasant Fields Farm, Medford

Pheasant Fields Farm will host its 17th annual Harvest Festival on a 20-acre family farm located between Ashland and Medford. Enjoy a corn maze and pumpkin patches along with a cow train through the cornfield. Take a hayride with Farmer Ric, then pet farm animals like goats, sheep, ducks and rabbits. There’s even a pear-shooting gallery. Bring your flashlight for the nighttime corn maze, open six nights in October. Kids can climb and tumble on the hay bale hill, while adults peruse local artisan vendors.

Foodies will appreciate the 50-plus varieties of pumpkins, specialty pumpkins, winter squash, and gourds for baking, eating, carving and decorations. Refreshments include caramel apples, hot cider and chocolate, espresso drinks, and other fare from Grandma’s Country Kitchen.

Echo Corn Maze, Echo

The Echo Corn Maze, between Hermiston and Pendleton, is home to an eight-acre corn maze, a smaller mini-maze and a straw bale maze for the younger ones. Kids can play in the corn crib and hay bale pyramid, ride the tractor-pulled carts, and even try a zip line. Check the event calendar for special activities, including wine and beer vendors in the maze, pumpkin carving demos, dog-friendly days and the Field of Screams haunted corn maze event.

Groups can reserve a firepit with picnic privileges, and field trips can be scheduled that include extra educational activities. Light refreshments are available, and it’s within walking distance to local Echo restaurants.

The MAiZE at the Pumpkin Patch, Portland

Portlanders have been visiting The Pumpkin Patch on Sauvie Island for more than 50 years, and enjoying The MAiZE, set in an eight-acre cornfield, for about two decades. Take a free hayride to the pumpkin patch to pick out your golden orb, then tackle the maze. Titled “Bridgetown,” the 2021 maze honors Portland’s bridges, with fir trees in the foreground and Mount Hood surveying it all.

After navigating almost two miles of pathways through the corn, find refreshments at the Patio Café or the many food stands. Burgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, sandwiches and more are complemented by festival treats like elephant ears and caramel apples. Check out 25 varieties of pumpkins and other produce at the farm stand, and visit furry and feathered friends at the Big Red Animal Barn.

Packer Orchards & BakeryHood River

Celebrate Halloween season at Packer Orchards and Bakery, with a u-pick pumpkin patch and corn maze. The kids’ play area includes a giant hay tower and a bouncy corral. There’s pumpkin bowling, and a puppet show on the weekends. Bring your flashlight for the corn maze after dark.

The bakery crafts cookies, fruit pies, cinnamon rolls and more, and makes milkshakes or smoothies with local fruit like huckleberries, peaches and Marionberries, as well as pumpkin shakes. Other specialties include apple cider doughnuts and cider slushies. Hot dogs and nachos are also available. There’s even a bar serving cider, wine, and beer on draft (hours vary). The farm store overflows with house made jams, pickles, salsa and more.

DD Ranch, Terrebonne

In the shadow of Smith Rock near Bend, DD Ranch welcomes families to a u-pick pumpkin patch and fall festival on its livestock ranch. Attractions include riding a Clydesdale horse or pony, a petting zoo, and a tractor-pulled hayride to visit and feed the cattle herd. Children can frolic in the Kids Korral Hay Maze and play structure with rope swings, slides and an obstacle course, along with a sandbox and playhouse for children. Hop on the DD Dirt Express Train, and ride pedal go-karts. Test your skills at the Cowboy Arcade complete with archery, BB guns and a giant slingshot.

The Country Market sells house-raised meat, eggs and honey along with seasonal produce and home décor. On weekends, vendors join the fun, such as Dig-A-Dees food cart featuring DD Ranch grass-fed beef along with hot dogs, kettle corn, ice cream, face painting, jewelry and libations for the exhausted parents.

E.Z. Orchards, Salem

E.Z. Orchards attracts kids and families from all around the northern Willamette Valley for its annual Harvest Fest. Find your perfect pumpkin in the scarecrow field, take a hayride and play plenty of games like Steer Ropin’ Ring Toss. The corn maze includes fun facts about Oregon agriculture. There’s a petting zoo, face painting, and live music on some weekends. Schools and other groups can arrange field trips, including an orchard tour, and there’s even a virtual field trip available.

As for refreshments, E.Z. Orchards is famous for seasonal doughnuts, cranking out hot sugared pumpkin and apple cider varieties for the entire month of October. The shortcake stand sells pie, coffee, hot cider and cookies, and food trucks supplement the fare. Don’t miss the market, full of produce, gourmet items, gifts and cidre made from a variety of heirloom cidre apples, including French and English bittersweets, grown on site.

Raw Corn with Walnuts, Mint and Chiles

“Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables” by Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg

 “The classic grilled Mexican corn on the cob (elote) — served with chile powder, lime, mayo and Cotija cheese — inspired this dish. You can eat this like a salad, served on a platter family-style, or you can serve it more like a relish.”  

Serves 4 as a first course

2 ears sweet corn, husked, kernels sliced off into bowl

1/3 cup roughly chopped, lightly toasted walnuts

1 or 2 small fresh hot chiles (jalapeño), seeded, deribbed and minced

4 scallions, trimmed (½-inch off green tops), sliced on sharp angle, soaked in ice water for 20 minutes, drained well

small handful mint leaves

½ lime

* kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

* extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese

Put the corn, walnuts, chiles, scallions and mint in a bowl and toss to mix. Squeeze over the lime juice and season generously with salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning so that the corn is lively with flavor. Add ¼ cup olive oil and toss. Taste and adjust with more oil, lime, salt or black pepper. Serve the corn salad in a bowl and topped with the shredded Pecorino.

Wine + Corn

Fiona Becket of Matching Food and Wine says, “There’s one wine that really stands out for me, and that’s Chardonnay, especially when you slather the corn in butter. Grilled corn works well, too, especially with a full-bodied oaky Chardonnay.”


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