NJ Farms Attract Tourists with Corn Mazes, Pumpkin Picking

By Lauren Wanko

Four-year-old Lily Burke is picking pumpkins.

When asked how many pumpkins she got, she replied, “One, two three.”

And playing in the corn kernel crib at Bullock Farms. It’s a new addition here, along with a sunflower field and other fall activities like a four and a half acre corn maze. After nearly 160 years in the business, the sixth generation farmers decided to add an agritourism component to their Cream Ridge Farm.

“It’s important for us as a family farm. We want to stay farmers and want to keep our land and there is a great option to have another source of income,” said Farm Manager Brett Bullock.

“Agritourism is when folks are able to visit the farm to experience on farm activities for recreational purposes and educational purposes,” said NJ Dept. of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher.

The Garden State had nearly 350 farms that offered agritourism activities in 2012, which generated more than $18 million in revenue. New Jersey ranks ninth nationwide in total agritourism dollars and nine counties rank in the top 10 percentile in agritourism sales.

“The location more than anywhere else in the country is good for agritourism because you have so many people that are close by,” Bullock said.

The Bullocks just began offering hay rides to their new pick-your-own pumpkin patches. They’ve been growing pumpkins for the past two decades.

Bullock Farms typically sells their pumpkins wholesale to garden centers throughout New York and New Jersey. The owners hope by adding this pick-your-own pumpkin, they’ll generate a whole new revenue source.

“So with agritoursim we can sell directly to the public and have the added benefit of having them come to the farm,” said Bullock.

Lily’s mom now has a carriage full of pumpkins.

“We’re always trying to get out and do pumpkin picking and get some cider and pick out pumpkins for the house. We just love it,” Megan Burke said.

But Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher says agritourism isn’t only about pumpkins.

“Agritourism is really four seasons because there is some activity that is always taking place on the farm,” said Fisher.

Once the autumn leaves fall and the scarecrows get packed away for next season, Bullock Farms invites customers to cut their own Christmas trees. Manager Brett Bullock says these family-farm events offer more than good memories.

“We are the Garden State. There’s a ton of farms in New Jersey and we grow lots of different things, but I think in general, the general population has a bit of a disconnect from agriculture, so I think it’s a great way to bridge that gap,” he said.

The Bullock farmers hope to add to their agritourism activities later this year with an on-site brewery. Construction’s expected to begin within the next few weeks.