GREENFIELD – At about this time of year here in the land of James Whitcomb Riley, it isn’t unusual to yearn for the countryside, for some of that “frost on the ‘punkin’” or “husky, rusty russel of the ‘tossels’ of the corn,” to want to enjoy some fresh air and the sights and sounds of autumn. That — and more — can be found in Hancock County.
The 150-acre family farm at Tuttle Orchards has been in operation since 1928 when Roy Tuttle planted the first 10 acres of apples.
“Everybody thought he was crazy,” said Helen Roney, tour director and the third generation of family to own and operate the orchard. “Most families had their own fruit trees.”
But as time would tell, Tuttle wasn’t crazy. As people began moving from family farms and into towns, a demand for large quantities of fruits and vegetables grew. Tuttle survived the depression, and soon, he was delivering to grocery stores and schools.
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Today Tuttle’s is a thriving fourth-generation family business and a fall tradition for many who seek not only apples but fresh cider, a pumpkin or two and some fresh air. With you-pick apples, pumpkins and sunflowers, hay rides, a play area, a corn maze and a petting zoo, Tuttle’s provides a day in the country for many central Indiana families.
Monica Hoover of Indianapolis and her two young daughters, Sylvie, 3, and Emeline, 5, were recently visiting Tuttle’s for the third time. The three of them enjoyed a hay ride and a tour to learn how pumpkins and apples are grown on the farm.
“We love the play area, and the tour is great,” Hoover said.
Hoover has plans for her bag of golden delicious apples.
“They make the best pies,” Hoover said, “with my mom’s strudel topping.”
New this year is the Sweet Shop, where visitors can get not only caramel apples, donuts, award-winning applesauce and cider but lunch items including chicken salad and pulled-pork sandwiches. Weekends, they fire up the grill and add hot dogs and brats to the menu.
Dahsha Pikus, 20, of Indianapolis, and her boyfriend, Evan Moore, 22, of McCordsville, loaded a 40-pound pumpkin (soon to be a jack-o-lantern) into the trunk of their car during a recent visit to the orchard. Moore grew up in Hancock County and had never been to Tuttle’s before.
“I’ve heard good things about it,” Moore said. “It’s our first time here.”
Owned and operated by Indianapolis attorney Matt Lark, Lark Ranch comprises a 70-acre complex featuring a corn maze, antique store, pedal cart track, giant slide, pony rides, and, of course, a pumpkin patch.
Open for just five weekends in the fall, Lark Ranch’s hands-on fun appeals to families with young children, employees say. A pumpkin train takes visitors out to the pumpkin patch.
Children can also purchase and sift through a bag of sand and rocks at the water trough at the gem mine and then identify the kinds of rocks they find.
A giant birdhouse climber gives visitors of all ages a bird’s eye view of what it’s like to be a bird living in a bird house.
Mindy Lark, sister to Matt Lark, works at the ranch on weekends and monitors a staff of 12 to 15 employees.
“Word of mouth has been great,” she said. “Everyone leaves with a big smile and the perfect pumpkin.”
As Lark Ranch continues to add new attractions every year, her favorite changes, too. This year, it’s the Orbitron, a two-person ride that spins its occupants gyroscope-style. And she’s looking for to next year, when mini-ziplines for the little ones are planned.
S & H Campground
S & H Campground is another local location for fall fun. This year-round campground has been in operation for 47 and also features a family fun park for local visitors, with amenities such as an inflatable playground, miniature golf, a bungee trampoline and a mini-train tour. It is open weekends from May through November.
Each weekend in October has its own theme: This weekend is “Attack of the Zombies” with live music, face-painting and hidden cash prizes up for grabs during the zombie hunt; Oct. 23 to 25 is “Ghost-Busting Weekend” with prizes for the best Ghostbuster costume, ghostly crafts and trick-or-treating with the Great Pumpkin; Oct. 30 to Nov. 1 is Halloween Prom Weekend and features a pet costume parade.
S & H also offers hay rides, a pumpkin patch and live music most weekends.
Tuttle Orchards: The orchard, 5717 N. County Road 300W, is open year round. It offers tours, pumpkin and apple-picking and more. Visit indianapolisorchard.com or call 317-326-2278 for more information.
Lark Ranch: The ranch, 1611 N. Meridian Road, is open Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 25. Attractions include a giant slide and pumpkin patch. Visit larkranch.com or call 812-295-9000 for more information.
S & H Campground: The campground, 2573 W. County Road 100N, features different fall-themed weekends through Nov. 1. Visit sandhcampground.com or call 317-326-3208 for more information.