Pumpkin patch party to bring fall fun to Detroit’s east side
Liberated Farms can be easy to miss.
Located near Eight Mile and John R, the urban farm on Detroit’s east side is tucked away in between a hodgepodge of well-maintained and blighted homes.
But in the field where houses once stood, there are trees with colorful autumn leaves, a small garden and a couple of benches to sit and watch the blue jays fly by.
And soon, Liberated Farms will be the site of a Detroit-based agriculture organization’s first U-Pick Pumpkin Patch Party. The free harvest festival, which takes Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., will have family-friendly games, music, a bounce house and food from East African restaurant Baobab Fare. And of course, the party will feature a fall staple–apple cider and doughnuts.
The event is all about accessibility for Derrienne Reese, the co-founder of Liberated Farms and founder of the agricultural group Asibara Forest, which has land next door. The Highland Park resident said she wanted to create a space where Detroiters can enjoy fall activities without having to drive 30 minutes or more to places like Parmenter’s Northville Cider Mill or Yates Cider Mill in Rochester. In 2020, Detroit Farm And Cider became the first Black-owned cider mill in the city. However, its Facebook page said the space is temporarily closed due to construction.
“We deserve to have festivals,” Reese said. “Everybody loves cider mill experiences and there’s so many people who haven’t been able to experience that because it’s not accessible. You have to take off work, you have to drive too far, it costs too much money, and I still feel like those kids and families deserve the opportunity to experience that. They deserve to press apples and make their own cider and the opportunity to hit a petting zoo up and without having to worry about the cost behind it.”
Derrienne Reese shovels a pile of woodchips at Liberated Farms Oct. 25, 2023. It’s one of the many tasks she’s doing to prepare for the U-Pick Pumpkin Patch Party. (BridgeDetroit photo by Micah Walker)
Creating an urban farm micro community
Reese and co-funder Marc “Brother Truth” Peeples started Liberated Farms in 2016, moving onto their space on Danbury Street in 2019. Other organizations soon followed. Asibara Forest started in 2021, Workin’ Roots Farm arrived across the street in 2022 and We 3 Queens Community Outreach began growing its botanical garden earlier this year.
Reese said the collaborative wants to make the Nolan neighborhood a communal hub, a place where people can learn about food sustainability and urban agriculture and where children can have unstructured play and be in nature. She said all four farms have different missions but share one goal–creating a micro community where people have access to basic needs.
Essentially, you shouldn’t have to leave your micro community for what you need unless you want to,” Reese said. “If you want to leave and go to Whole Foods, you can leave and go to Whole Foods, but there should be healthy access to those same things right in your neighborhood.
“We just want to make sure that we’re building something that’s for Detroiters, something for majority Black Detroiters.”
A fall event for Detroiters
Reese said the pumpkin patch party will not only have fun activities for the family, but an educational component as well. Attendees can learn how to make their own cider through an apple cider press and taste the difference between Michigan apples like Red Delicious and Honeycrisp.
“I’m 34, and I only did that one time before and it was recently in my class at Michigan State University for my farmers training program,” Reese said. “All the adults had so much fun that I was like, ‘Oh yeah, now I have to make sure the kids have the same opportunity.’”
Other activities include an entomologist on site offering bug-related activities, picking and painting pumpkins from the patch in Asibara Forest and a STEM-themed mobile escape room.
“The theme is a surprise, but it’s going to be educational and for ages eight and up,” Reese said.
Derrienne Reese examines the pumpkin patch in her urban farm Asibara Forest. Pumpkins will be the main attraction at the organization’s U-Pick Pumpkin Patch Party. (BridgeDetroit photo by Micah Waker)
And children will be able to enjoy candy apples while playing life-size versions of Connect Four and checkers, said Anne Lynn, founder of We 3 Queens Community Outreach. While Lynn lives on the west side, her sister and nephew live in the neighborhood, and she wanted to bring something positive to their side of town.
“What we want to do when we go into neighborhoods is to build those neighborhoods back up and restore them from being the ‘hood’ back into neighborhoods,” she said. And bring a sense of community and values back to the neighborhood so they (residents) can start appreciating what they have.”
Reese hopes the pumpkin patch party can become an annual event for Detroiters to enjoy and come together.
“If I’m going out to Yates, I’m not out there with Detroiters. There might be a couple of us out there, but I’m not out there bonding with my community,” she said. “We need more opportunities as Detroiters to get together and build those bonds.”
Added Lynn: “This harvest festival will bring a lot of light to what we’re doing. What we need is for the community to come out and know that we’re here and this is happening and they have this space to be able to come and use.”
Halloween events around Detroit
Saturday, Oct. 28
- Fall Fest, Clark Park, 1-5 p.m.
The Detroit Parks and Recreation Department is hosting the festival, which will feature pumpkin painting, hay rides, petting zoo, carnival games and more.
Sunday, Oct. 29
- Scarefest, Palmer Park, 4-8 p.m.
Hosted by the Detroit General Services Department, Scarefest will offer thrill rides, zombie laser tag, food trucks and a haunted safari.
Tuesday, Oct. 31
Several recreation centers, police precincts and fire stations in the city will host their own Halloween events from 4-8 p.m. People can visit halloweeninthed.org for specific locations.
We 3 Queens is hosting its Spooktacular Halloween party from 5-8 p.m. at Uncle Katos Market Place, 16418 W. McNichols. There will be a trunk or treat, a dance contest and cash prizes.
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