Blackberry Festival at Mortimer Farms

Blackberry Festival at Mortimer Farms. Mortimer Farms is a beautiful and festive farm tucked away in the rolling green hills of Dewey, Arizona. Phoenix with Kids has enjoyed Mortimer farms in the past for their fall festival, but attending the Blackberry Festival was a first for us!

When we arrived, the line to buy tickets was long, but it moved fast, and once we entered the public area, it did not feel crowded at all. We arrived minutes after a downpour, so the weather was overcast and humid, but the temperature was a balmy 85, making it a fantastic day to be outdoors. I was hoping the rain would stave off the crowds, which I think it did.

One drawback that I did not anticipate, however, was how muddy and wet the ground would be. The bottoms of the slides were so wet that it would have been like sliding into a small pond. So there were a few fun attractions we had to forgo in the name of dry sneakers.

We walked past plots of eggplant, okra, and sunflowers along a path that funneled us in between enclosures hosting goats, chickens, and ponies. You can buy handfuls of feed from little dispensers along the fences for 50 cents, but you have to have quarters.

Our kids were immediately drawn to the pony rides. We met two sweet miniature horses named French Fry and Pop Tart. Their handlers were fun and enjoyed answering all the kid’s questions about the miniature horses. They told us the horses preferred to be pet on the shoulders, but they are so used to kids, they are always gentle. The ride was $5 per kid, but was a good long one, not just once or twice around the loop. That was our big splurge of the day, and absolutely worth it!

The next big hit was the Jumping Pillow! It was a gigantic, colorful inflated pillow that you can bounce around on like a trampoline. I appreciate how it slopes down to the ground, so if anyone falls, they just kind of roll off into the dirt, and don’t fall from any kind of height. We spent a lot of time there.

The ropes course was definitely a challenge that the kids enjoyed, despite the added danger of falling into a soggy swamp if you missed your step! There were also these huge pipe sections on a track that you can walk right into and roll around like a hamster in a ball. And the Red Neck Swing was hysterical. The tighter you wind it, the higher and faster it goes! I saw adults screaming like kids from whipping around so fast.

Tractor John gave everyone a ride in his grain wagons since the barrel train was being re-painted. He really enjoyed engaging his patrons with funny stories and information about the land around us. He pointed out the freshly planted peach and apple trees and explained how the Pivot machine waters large fields on a cycle.

The zip line was fun, but a bit terrifying to watch! It was pretty high off the ground for our little 5-year-old, and even the older ones (8 and 10) needed help getting on and off. When they hit the end, they got whipped really hard. My 8 year old actually fell off once from that hard stop and cried just a little bit, but more from being scared than hurt. When they finished up and came running back for lunch, everyone agreed that it had been fun.

Lunch at The Windmill Kitchen came with mostly positive, but mixed reviews. The brisket was tangy and moist, and the farm slaw was creamy and delicious. The pulled pork sandwich tasted good but was a bit dry. The baked beans were filling, but boring. The kid’s burgers were really good, but note that they were actually tiny burgers. That was fine for our kiddos, but some kids might not like a tiny burger. The buns on all the sandwiches were fresh and soft. I’d say the brisket is the meal not to miss.

One small drawback was the time it took for our food to be ready. Fortunately, we had been warned by a friend that orders there take a long time, so we were ready to be patient. We ordered and had one adult wait by the window for food while another adult took the kids back out to keep playing. It was about 45 minutes before our food was out. While we were eating, we heard the person taking orders telling others in line that they were going to stop taking orders for a few minutes while they got caught up. So order early, and order brisket!

Blackberry Festival at Mortimer Farms

I saw very few people wearing masks, but there were several signs posted around the farm telling people to please stay one cow’s length (or 6 feet) apart. I felt very safe being outside in the fresh air and sunshine.

At 2 p.m. we gathered at a stage near the pony ride area and enjoyed a butterfly release event that had an unexpected twist. Everyone in attendance was given an envelope and told to hold it very gently. When everyone had an envelope, we all opened them at the same time, turned it sideways, and gently shook it, and a butterfly flew out! The area seemed to come alive as tiny orange wings fluttered around us in all directions. Some of the butterflies flew right off, others landed on shoulders or shoes and hung out for a few minutes. It was very special and sweet.

As the kids finally began to tire out, we got three plastic containers from The Windmill Kitchen and ventured into the Blackberry patch. The air was still and hot in between the rows of bushes, but finding the perfect berry became a gem hunt. Move aside just the right branch, and a treasure trove of shiny berries would surprise us! The kids loved searching in this nature’s game of hide and seek, and squealed with delight when a branch filled with perfectly ripe, huge blackberries was discovered. We filled three quarts in just 10 minutes. They were the biggest blackberries I have ever seen.

After a few minutes of sifting for rocks in the water mill, we had time to soak up some air conditioning in the main store. The jams, jellies, salsas, and honey were all so tempting! But we finally decided on blackberry syrup and mayhaw jelly. The kids each got a honey stick at check out, and we headed to the car for the 2-hour drive back to Chandler. We will be having pancakes with blackberry syrup and freshly picked blackberries for breakfast in the morning.

We all loved the day so much that we will definitely be back for future festivals. Mortimer Farms is a fantastic place to get fresh, local produce, enjoy the outdoors, learn about farming and animals, and just have fun. Learn more on their website.

Opinion section:

“What was your favorite part of the day?”

5-year-old: “The big bouncy pillow and the pony ride. French Fry was the softest pony I ever met!”

8-year-old: “I loved the tractor ride, the pony ride, and Pop Tart was so cute! And I loved blackberry picking! My favorite part was us getting the most blackberries!”

10-year-old: “My favorite part of today was riding on that little half pony, and the tractor ride, and the obstacle course…I liked all of it!”

Blackberry Festival at Mortimer Farms

Liz is a NJ transplant who lives in Chandler with her husband, and three daughters.

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