I have been to several farms during all seasons. Compared to most fall festivals where the kettle corn is popping, the smell of caramel lingers, children are jumping on giant pillows and careening down slides, Shlagel Farms is like no other.
Farm Fun at Shlagel Farms
Take away the fanfare and return to a simpler approach to life on a working farm. Yes, you will see cute animals and experience a small fraction of activities, but the highlight of the visit will be the tractor ride. In order to pick that perfect, orange pumpkin, you must board the hayride driven by Farmer Steve Shlagel and narrated by his brother, Farmer Russ Shlagel. I also gripe about how fast most hayrides plow through the land, but Farmer Steve took us nice and slow through 150 acres.
Farmer Russ is full of knowledge. Well, why wouldn’t he be; the farm is owned by him and his brother. The first thing he asked was who had been to Shlagel Farms before? Of the slow, yet steady stream of guests that boarded the hayride on opening day, most of us were newbies. We could feel the autumn breeze as we trudged down the road passing what was watermelon, then cantaloupe and red peppers. There was kale, collards, and bright purple cabbages lined in pretty little rows. We saw workers picking butternut squash, Angus cattle chilling by the pumpkin patch, and boxes deep in the fields filled with 80,000 bees producing honey.
Pumpkin Patch at the Farm
Then there it was – the great pumpkin patch. Driving right into the field, we descended like mice racing to cheese. Good luck finding small pumpkins here. Shlagel’s are hearty and hard to get off the vine; so much so that I had to cruelly step on the vine to steal my prize away. At .49 per pound, my chunky pumpkin only cost me $2.
While the farm is not organic, they use very little pesticides. They are passionate about bringing food from farm to table. When they can’t sell some produce due to minor dings, classed as #2s, they donate it to the local food bank. Last month, they donated 12,000 pounds of eggplant to charity.
Next time you visit Giant food store, consider the produce you select may have come from Shlagel Farms. Better yet, visit the farmers markets in Cheverly or Greenbelt or say hi to Russ’ son at the Del Ray farmers market in Alexandria.
Visit the greenhouses to see onions drying, hanging baskets of flowers and Gerber daisy plants (my personal favorite), and two giant corn boxes filled with toy trucks. There are photo cut outs, a small playground and hay maze. The petting zoo was very well maintained and clean. Calves, pigs, sheep, goats, bunnies, turkeys, and a colossal coop of chickens rest between a small statue of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. Bring quarters to feed the babies, especially the chickens who squawk when they hear the coin dispenser turn. Remember to use caution, as the sign says, because fingers may look like food to these barnyard beauties. On the porch of the farm store, peek in the tub where we saw three day old baby chicks.
Step inside for eggs, honey, preserves, a variety of ciders, pre-picked pumpkins (more expensive then PYO), and produce all grown and made here on the farm. There’s also a trailer offering confections such as pumpkin or apple pie, ice cream, and milkshakes.
Autumn fun at Shlagel Farms continues every Saturday and Sunday in October from 10 am to 5 pm. My only quip was that the price of $9 per person was a tad high. However, the amount of education you and your child(ren) will receive is worthy of the admission.
Photos from their website.