From the crisp fall air and beautiful mountain views to the unique hayride experience and pick-your-own pumpkins, Darnell Farms in Bryson City is offering the perfect setting for all your favorite farm activities. Choosing the perfect pumpkin is often a tradition shared between families, friends and couples, but have you ever stopped to wonder how these pumpkins grow to become the objects of our fall fascination? According to Afton Darnell, second generation farmer at Darnell Farms, it takes a lot of management and patience because they are not an easy crop to grow in North Carolina.
“We grow our pumpkins in pull beds with no plastic on top and drip tape under the beds because it is easier to control disease that way,” Afton said, “they grow in rows on top of a hill where you can see all the gorgeous views of the Great Smoky Mountains.” The farm is currently growing 12 acres of pick-your-own pumpkins and featuring a 40-minute hay-ride to the top of the mountain and back. “Once the pumpkins are ready for harvest, we have crews that go up the mountain to trim and cut the vines so they are easier for the public to pick,” she said, “but they are left in the spot where they grew so it is an authentic experience for everyone.”
This year was particularly hard on pumpkins due to the intense summer heat, higher than normal amounts of rainfall and quick cold snap. “Pumpkins need time to dry out and they didn’t have a lot of time to do that this year between the rainy days,” says Afton, “and on top of that, they had to acclimate quickly from hot temperatures to cool, fall weather.” Despite the abnormal conditions, Darnell Farms has plenty of pristine pumpkins available for purchase on the farm this year.
Tickets to Darnell Farms fall activities are $12 a person and feature a 40-minute hayride to the top of the mountain for individuals to pick their perfect pumpkin and ride back down. Hayrides this year are reservation only and will service less people per ride due to COVID-19 restrictions. “We do not want to be the farm that increases anyone’s chance of contracting the virus so we will be socially distancing on the hayride, offering space for 10 less people than usual, as well as requiring masks,” Afton said, “but with that being said, we still encourage the public to come out, bring their families and enjoy the fun fall festivities.” Her favorite part is seeing the children pick out their own pumpkins and hearing their joyful laughter over the hillside.
Afton encourages buying local for all of your fall needs due to what she dubs the 37-kid theory. “Each time you purchase a product from Darnell Farms it trickles down to help the 37 children that are spread out among our family and staff members,” she said, “and that same theory applies to other farms and businesses across the state of North Carolina.” Throughout the fall, you may find Afton and her family enjoying a few pieces of pumpkin pie or carving kitty cats into their own pumpkins. Be sure to reserve a spot for your hayride with friends or family on their website at https://darnellfarms.com/. Happy fall y’all!