Tucked beside Interstate 79’s northbound Wexford exit is the cause of many autumnal traffic jams: Soergel Orchards.
In early to mid-September — Sept. 16 this year — Soergel Orchards opens its doors for the annual, month-and-a-half-long Fall Fest. Tractors take patrons into the orchards to pick their own pumpkins and apples, and staples like roasted corn and apple cider draw crowds to the barn area.
“It’s like a mini festival,” says Amy Soergel, the daughter of Randy Soergel, who owns the farm with his wife, brother and sister-in-law.
The Soergel farm was started in the 1850s by the family’s German immigrant ancestors. Between 1950 and 1960, the family began selling produce out of a stand along Brandt School Road as the business continued to grow. The first Fall Fest was hosted in the 1970s, Soergel says, and was a much simpler endeavor: bins of produce sat along the property for customers to peruse.
Fourteen years ago, Soergel spearheaded Naturally Soergels, a shop on the farm specializing in gluten-free, allergen-friendly and paleo products. In 2015, Arsenal Cider opened a location on the farm. Now, Soergel manages “social media, the website, email communication [and] marketing,” while simultaneously planning and hiring for festivals.
This year marks the second Fall Fest at Soergel’s since a two-year hiatus caused by the Covid pandemic. Much has returned to the way it was before the pandemic, especially the crowds.
“We’ve tried to [count the number of attendees] just for our own sake and it’s very difficult,” Soergel says, citing the large number of entry points into the farm alongside the fact that attendance is free with no registration. “We can count cars. Sometimes at [Orchard Hill Church], I think it’s at like 700, but if those cars have four people, it’s really hard to conceptualize and try to get a number.”
Orchard Hill borders Soergel’s property and has allowed its lots to be used for parking overflow for the past couple of years.
In an ongoing effort to accommodate the crowds, the pick-your-own pumpkin and apple orchards now offer weekday hours alongside their usual weekend festival times.
“There is a small chance that if there are apples that aren’t quite ready — they look ready, but the sugars might not be where we want them to be — we have to close the picking for the day, so just keep an eye if you’re coming, definitely call, definitely check our website,” Soergel says.
The farm and store at Soergel Orchards are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. When Fall Fest begins on Saturday, Sept. 16, the apple orchard and pumpkin patch will be open from noon to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
If a day trip to Soergel’s is not in your future, here are five more farms with fall events around Pittsburgh.
More Pittsburgh-area farms
823 Berry Lane, Monongahela
Triple B Farms offers usual fall favorites like hayrides and pumpkin picking on top of Pop’s Farmyard — a farm playscape home to giant board games, grain bin basketball, two corn mazes, giant jumping pillows and more. Families south of the city (or willing to make the trip) can get their fall fix while tuckering out younger ones with Triple B’s 25 different attractions.
Triple B Farms is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Pop’s Farmyard is open on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
315 Coleman Road, McDonald
For fall foliage without the farm attractions, Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse offers pick-your-own produce or bouquets (and homemade wine) on top of the offerings in its extensive greenhouse. The kids don’t have to stay at home — Bedner’s hosts pumpkin painting throughout the season and story time every Friday — but buying a bottle and picking out plants also makes for a great date.
Bedner’s is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The site closes for the season in October.
3754 Wexford Run Road, Wexford
Although close to Soergel Orchards, Shenot’s can be a more rustic experience. It offers a hayride or a scenic walking trail option from the farm store to the pumpkin patch on the hill above to find the perfect porch piece. While there, pick up some of their locally renowned sweet corn, which has been the family’s signature crop since they started selling their produce in 1950.
1000 Braddock Ave., Braddock
According to Grow Pittsburgh’s website, Braddock Farms is a one-acre green streak in the middle of town that was started “with the purpose of providing fresh produce for the Braddock community and creating on-farm educational opportunities.” The farm primarily hosts educational opportunities, selling its produce from a streetside stand, but also celebrates a Fall Festival in October (date pending) featuring cider making, sorghum pressing and corn shelling demonstrations, plus fall crafts like pumpkin decorating and corn husk doll making.
Farm stand hours, updates, fundraisers and more details can be found on Grow Pittsburgh’s Facebook page.
5909 Saltsburg Road, Murrysville
Gearhard Farms has a big, corny draw: its annual corn maze with a “mystery aerial message.” Since 2000, the farm has carved an intricately designed maze into its cornfield, with an aerial photo of the design only being revealed once the maze is complete. Past years have depicted the solar system, a music staff with the treble clef symbol included, and a corn-carved recreation of the Gearhard Farm for its 250th anniversary. Maze season starts on Saturday, Sept. 2, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 29. Gearhard Farm’s Facebook page lists the most up-to-date hours in the case of inclement weather.
MORE FALL FUN
Now that the autumnal equinox has passed, colorful leaves and cool weather are undeniable. Here are the best fall things to do this year.