Our farmers have been busy harvesting their crops since September and will continue until the end of October.
It is estimated that an impressive 15 million pumpkins are grown in the UK each year. Get the pick of the patch this year and check out the farms below to find out where you can buy a British pumpkin this Halloween.
We caught up with Will Simkin of Essington Farm. Essington Farm is a family run business who have been farming in Essington since 1892.
The farm grows a variety of fruit and vegetables throughout the year, including pumpkins across 15 acres.
“Pumpkins have been increasing in demand over the last couple of years. In 2015 the farm grew 8,000 pumpkins, and this year, we have grown 40,000. Pumpkins have grown to be an October must have, just like a Christmas tree in December,” says Will.
Essington Farm sells direct to the public, either from its farm shop or direct from its farms where people can pick their own pumpkins.
“I love seeing the families enjoying themselves, watching the children try and pick the biggest pumpkin possible,” says Will. “Pumpkins are a hard crop to establish, being particularly susceptible to slugs. The weather is always a challenge. Plus trying to sell all pumpkins by 31 October can be a challenge; nobody wants a pumpkin after Halloween!”
Will explains that leftover pumpkins on fed to the pigs on the farm.
“I love seeing the families enjoying themselves, watching the children try and pick the biggest pumpkin possible.”
Pumpkin grower Will Simkin
His top tip for carving pumpkins is to use a sharp knife (under adult supervision) and his favourite pumpkin recipe is the classic pumpkin soup.
Find out more at: essingtonfarm.co.uk
Robert Bell of Bells Brothers Nurseries Ltd, Lincolnshire
Bells Brothers Nurseries Ltd are situated in the heart of Lincolnshire, where they are lucky enough to benefit from excellent weather conditions.
The Bell family have been farming in Lincolnshire for over a century, where they started with just a small greenhouse.
Alongside several other crops and plants, the Bell family grow a staggering 500,000 pumpkins each year. Robert Bell of Bell Brothers Nurseries Ltd is up at the crack of dawn visiting each pumpkin field; the harvesting time of year is critical. Sowing begins in May, ready to harvest in September.
Robert describes a typical day as “pretty muddy”, adding that visiting each field first thing in the morning is critical due to the timing of the harvest.
“We aim to lift 40,000 pumpkins per day, so it is pretty hectic! Every single pumpkin is picked and washed by hand so it’s a very labour intensive task. The only mechanisation is transport from field to pack house. The amount of labour varies during the process, at peak when we are cutting, lifting, processing and packing we have around 40 people.
“Once we start to pack orders, the pressure is on to deliver what we have promised to our customers by Halloween.”
Robert Bell, Bells Brothers Nurseries Ltd.
“I also manage the production site to ensure that the washing and grading teams are keeping up with the harvesting crews. Once we start to pack orders, the pressure is on to deliver what we have promised to our customers by Halloween.”
The highlight of being a pumpkin farmer? “My wife’s ever growing repertoire of pumpkin related recipes,” says Robert.
Robert identifies weather, handling and storage as the key challenges of being a pumpkin farmer: “Weather because it affects the yield and therefore the capacity to meet customer specifications and orders.
“Growing pumpkins is labour intensive. They are handled numerous times from the beginning of harvesting in the field to final packing. All our pumpkins are washed and stored in glasshouses to provide protection and the required light to set and colour the skins. We have to consider that the fruit’s natural propensity to bruising and rot increases each time it is handled and can greatly affect the final yield.”
Unsold pumpkins are used by local farmers as cattle feed.
Find out more at: bellspumpkinpatch.com
Pound Farm Shop and Plant Centre is a family owned business situated on the outskirts of the Cotswolds.
Jenny and Gerald of Pound Farm, a 250 acre mixed farm, offer a wide range of home produced, from home reared turkey, beef, pork and lamb to seasonal vegetables to include pumpkins.
Together, they grow half an acres worth of pumpkins. “It takes about 3 days to harvest all of our pumpkins, explains Jenny. “They are all picked by hand so the days are long and tiring.”
“The weather is the biggest challenge. This year has been quite a damp year, so we have had quite a few rotten pumpkins.”
Jenny explains she loves to get creative with her pumpkins. “One year the Tour of Britain passed by our farm shop, so I created a scene with bicycles and pumpkins. This year my theme is a vintage tea party, with flower arrangements and lots of pumpkin people.”
“Last year the Tour of Britain passed by our farm shop, so I created a scene with bicycles and pumpkins. This year my theme is a vintage tea party, with flower arrangements and lots of pumpkin people.”
Jenny Hyett, Pound Farm Shop and Plant Centre
For Jenny and Gerald, pumpkins aren’t just for us to enjoy, but the animals on the farm also enjoy a tasty treat too. Pumpkins not suitable to be sold and unsold pumpkins are fed to the farm animals.
“The turkeys particularly enjoy pecking them and chasing them around the turkey paddock – they are good at keeping them entertained,” Jenny jokes. “My horse also enjoys them as a treat.”
Dom Bloxham, a young farmer from Staffordshire, works on his family farm.
As well as being a dairy farmer, Dom has diversified and grows 10 acres of pumpkins each year for the annual seasonal harvest. “With no two years the same, it’s difficult to predict how the next year’s harvest will be,” says Dom.
Dom harvests around 10 acres worth of pumpkins, supplying Halloween events and to the general public. “As a dairy farmer too, it is a nice change from milking cows, and something seasonal,” Dom explains. “On some days I can be picking 1,500 pumpkins a day.”
His advice for carving is not to start with a pumpkin that’s too large and his favourite seasonal treat is a pumpkin muffin. "Though you also can’t beat a hot bowl of pumpkin soup!"
“As a dairy farmer too, it is a nice change from milking cows, and something seasonal."
Dom Bloxham, Staffordshire farmer
Did you know?
- Although often thought of as a vegetable, pumpkins are actually a fruit
- The average yield of pumpkins in the UK is 4,250 per acre
- In 2016, the UK grew 3,523 acres of pumpkins, which equals 14,972,750 pumpkins!
- Pumpkins come in all different colours, including green, white and blue