Kids can go wild this fall at the Jungle Farm in Red Deer (photo: Carla Victor)

Central Alberta Harvest Season Fun and Food

By AMA Staff

Autumn has always been a season to celebrate—especially on the Prairies. It’s a time when farmers bring in the harvest and start preparing for the cold months to come. It’s a time when leaves change colour creating a kaleidoscopic of splendour. And it’s a time when pleasant weather makes outdoor adventures truly pleasurable. The farms and agricultural attractions of Red Deer and its surrounding towns are ideal for experiencing and celebrating the wonders of the Central Alberta harvest season.

October is pumpkin pickin’ time at Red Deer’s Heritage Ranch. Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride out to the pumpkin patch and pick your favourite gourd. Or join an after-dark expedition where you board a tractor and use flashlights and glow sticks to make your selection. Warm up with hot chocolate afterwards. Pumpkin picking must be booked in advance and costs $24 per adult and $15 per child, or $65 per family (2 adults and 2 children). If you’re in town on Thanksgiving weekend, be sure to book in for Thanksgiving brunch or Thanksgiving dinner at the on-site Westlake Grill.

You’ll find farm-fresh eggs and free range beef and pork at this two-story Red Deer County shop outside Sylvan Lake, which also sells rare Scandinavian and European antiques. It’s a great outing for families who want to see a real working farm—but since it is a working farm, it’s a good idea to call ahead before you pop in.

In 2016, Kraay Family Farm near Lacombe is celebrating 50 years of “The Great Pumpkin” with an all-new theme to their 15-acre corn maze. There’s plenty of farmtastic fun with over 40 different attractions and amenities, including a giant jumping pillow, a petting zoo, mini-golf and more.

Innisfail’s Jungle Farm hosts its annual Fall Festival on October 1—with live music, food, demonstrations and educational programs in addition to the regular family-fun activities. Then, on the last weekend of October, Extreme Power Tool Pumpkin Carving is back by popular demand. There’s also an on-farm shop, pick-your-own pumpkins, a corn maze, animals, wagon rides, a giant slide, pumpkin slingshot and much more every weekend through the end of October.

As the name suggests, you’ll find farm-fresh eggs and lamb at this country store in Lacombe County. That said, you’ll also find a wide variety of other local products—from homemade fudge to homegrown honey to local handicrafts. They’re open noon to 6 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, during the fall and winter months.

Sylvan Star Cheese is renowned for its award-winning gouda, gruyere and edam fromages, though there’s much more to discover at the on-farm store: They also carry a wide variety of Dutch products, local honey, frozen meats and spices.

Looking for a year-round farmer’s market? Check out Big Bend Market in Red Deer. Here you’ll find myriad locally produced food and fare: organic milk, eggs and produce, plus fine meats and deli products, and everything else you’d expect from a top-quality farmers’ market. And for foodies lacking the time to prepare their fresh ingredients, there are also a wide variety of ready-made home-cooked meals available.

The drive to Central Alberta is a relatively straightforward one. After all, Red Deer is almost exactly halfway between Edmonton and Calgary on Highway 2. But the unexpected can occur on even the easiest of road trips. Consider the benefits of upgrading to a Plus or higher membership with AMA, which allows for extended towing distances, free fuel and delivery, enhanced trip collision reimbursement and more.

Dining discounts: The Ultimate Dining Card makes it easy to eat on the road by offering savings at a number of popular restaurants. Buy your reusable card at an AMA centre and earn 5% in reward dollars on the purchase amount, plus 5% more each time you reload it.