On any fall Saturday at Bass Family Farms, on Highway 30 between Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon, you’ll find a host of people wandering about the property enjoying the crisp air. But they aren’t just visiting the farm to purchase pumpkins to take home and carve with their children. They are making a day of it.
They go on a hayrack ride, check out the small petting zoo, play a round of mini golf, climb on oversized Adirondack chairs, and, yes, pick out pumpkins, which they wheel around the farm in little red wagons.
Walking around the farm last fall while my kids launched tennis balls with a huge slingshot and bounced in the jungle-themed bounce house, I had to chuckle. I remembered being in middle school, having just moved to Georgia, when several of my classmates asked me what it was like to live on a farm.
I had no idea how to answer their question. For the record, I’ve lived most of my life in Iowa, but I’ve never lived on a farm. My own children — now 14 and 11 — have grown up here but don’t have much of an understanding of what it means to use the land to produce food for others.
So I’m thankful for our state’s rich agricultural roots and the fact we are surrounded by farming operations, some like Bass Family Farms, where families like ours can visit working farms. They offer tours of their farm from May to October, showcasing the full farming process from planting and plant development to heavy vegetable production, harvesting, honey production and putting the fields to bed for winter. School groups are a big draw for the educational tours.
In past summers, my family and I have packed a picnic and enjoyed it in the Bass Farms gazebo before stopping in to the Urban Market shop to stock up on veggies, Iowa-made and grown.
Fall is a particularly good time to go, as Bass Farms hosts a Fall Festival each weekend leading up to Halloween. Not only can you buy pumpkins and gourds and hay bales to make your own home festive for fall, but you can hop on that hayrack ride, slide down the hill on a cleverly created pumpkin slide, play yard games, snap some photos in the pop-up photo booth, enjoy some popcorn and cider, and even take in a magic show.
Bass Farms isn’t alone. Bloomsbury Farm, near Atkins in Benton County, has been focusing on agritourism for more than two decades.
Owner Karen Petersen started Bloomsbury Farm in 1995 when she offered to take her daughter’s first grade class on a tour of their fifth-generation grain farm. Other schools began requesting tours as well.
The business, now a staple in many local families’ fall schedule, has grown from there.
“People want an experience,” Petersen said. “And we have figured out how to create that quality experience on the farm.”
Open from the second weekend of September through the first week in November, the farm adds new attractions each year.
There are chicken shows and pig races, a jumping pillow to bounce on, a barrel train to ride and a tractor tire mountain to climb. They have offered huge, themed corn mazes for the past 14 years. And in the last few seasons, they’ve added haunted houses — which have been hugely popular — and a zip line to the lineup.
During a visit, my daughter couldn’t get enough of feeding the “super cute goats” who wander around their own fort. My son would have stayed all day just to launch the pumpkin cannon over and over again.
If You Go
WHAT: Bass Family Farms
WHERE: 840 Bass Lane, Mount Vernon
DETAILS: (319) 895-6480, bassfarms.org
WHAT: Bloomsbury Farms
WHERE: 3260 69th St., Atkins
DETAILS: (319) 446-7667, bloomsburyfarm.com
Also check out:
WHAT: Pride of the Wapsi
WHERE: 14600 305th St., Long Grove
DETAILS: (563) 285-8180, prideofthewapsi.com
WHAT: Kacena Pumpkin Farm
WHERE: 2510 55th South, Vinton
DETAILS: (319) 210-2218, facebook.com/KacenaPumpkinFarm
WHAT: Colony Pumpkin Patch
WHERE: 2780 Front St. NE, North Liberty
DETAILS: (319) 626-6091, colonypumpkinpatch.com
WHAT: Kroul Farms
WHERE: 245 Highway 1, Mount Vernon
DETAILS: (319) 895-8944, kroulfarms.com
WHAT: Sass Family Farm
WHERE: 3060 160th St., Riverside
DETAILS: (319) 648-3788, sassfamilyfarm.com
WHAT: Bart’s Farm and Pumpkin Patch
WHERE: 7307 Alburnett Rd., Marion
DETAILS: (319) 373-2633, bartsfarmpumpkins.wixsite.com/oursite
WHAT: Goodlove’s Pumpkin Farm
WHERE: 1870 Covington Rd., Palo
DETAILS: (319) 396-2010
WHAT: Pumpkin Patch Pizzazz
WHERE: 16359 170th Ave., Monticello
DETAILS: (319) 480-2874, pumpkinpatchpizzazz.com