As I was drafting our fall bucket list for this year, I wanted to include farm visits that focus more on nature and learning about our food (even though we also love the activities that come with a typical pumpkin patch). Based on prior year’s experience, Oxbow Farm and Conservation Center has a wonderful natural playground and a wide variety of heirloom pumpkins available. We even have pumpkins growing in our backyard from the seeds I saved last fall! Details about their usual Oxtober fest weren’t available at the time, but as luck would have it, I spotted their Family Farm Adventures when doing my usual scroll through the ParentMap events calendar and signed us up for a private farm tour. Our experience was really special and I would highly recommend it to families or learning pods.
Farmers Shea (they/them) and Emma (she/her) welcomed us on a foggy morning for our two-hour tour. Julia and James were feeling a bit shy and I was nervous that our small group (just the three of us) would make it harder to build enthusiasm. I needn’t have worried though — we crossed over the bridge to the Kids Farm and it was like entering a whole new world.
Shea and Emma tailored the tour to the kids’ ages (4.5 years and 18 months old), so stops at each station were shorter but we made more stops than we might have with older kids. The tour focused on parts of plants and how we can observe and eat them (roots, stems, flowers, fruits and seeds). We examined pumpkin flowers, compared leaf textures, crawled through a grapevine tunnel and collected purple beans (scarlet runner) from the bean arena that we saved in an origami seed packet.
Harvesting took place throughout the tour and we took a break at the end to sample what we’d gathered and then took home a big bag of produce. Maybe it’s just my kids, but having adults who weren’t related to them encourage vegetable eating was awesome. Julia ignores cucumbers, summer squash and radishes on her plate at home, but when Shea encouraged her to try some, she listed to them without batting an eye.
I also loved having connections between what we learned at the farm and what we talk about at home. For example, we recently talked about how flies have compound eyes, and learned about compound flowers (like sunflowers) on the tour. Even James felt included — he kept saying “wow!” as we looked under and around leaves for ladybugs and slugs.
As safety precautions go, I felt very comfortable at Oxbow. We regularly sanitized our hands and washed them with soap and water at handwashing stations. Although Julia took off her mask for the tasting portion of the tour, everyone wore masks and it was easy to give each other space. We completed a health screening upon arrival and there were lots of signs reminding folks about COVID-19 precautions. A porta potty is the only restroom available, but it was quite clean and there’s a handwashing station right next to it (we brought along a toddler potty for Julia).
Location: Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center, Carnation, WA. About a 35-40 minute drive from North Seattle
Duration and Availability: Weekdays; 2-hour time slots starting at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Group Size: Groups are limited to 5 people (and 3 children) in the same household or learning pod, but they provide contact details if you want to discuss a different sized group.
Cost: Sliding scale fee from $50-150. I fully recognize that this is a high cost compared to some other fall activities. That said, many of the local pumpkin patches are charging $20 per person for admission. There were three of us and we went home rich in knowledge and produce and had the place completely to ourselves, so it felt worth the cost to me. The website also emphasizes their desire for accessibility — contact them if the cost is a barrier. For free admission, check out the details for Oxtober that are now available here.