Meet the family having their busiest Halloween ever growing thousands of pumpkins

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They originate from Mexico, are served in pies across America and used the world over by families who usually opt to hollow them out instead of eating them.

The humble pumpkin is a staple of the Thanksgiving meal across the pond yet, as the years go by, more and more of them are seen in the streets and front windows of homes across Hull and East Yorkshire.

Traditionally hollowed out and carved into the shape of a spooky face for Halloween, the bounds of what you can do with a pumpkin have really been pushed in recent years with some parents even sitting their babies in them to pose for photos.

This year, one of the biggest growers and sellers in East Yorkshire has quadrupled its output and is reporting its busiest Halloween yet.



From left, Jenny Winn, 79, Sally Wilson, 55, and Pat Wilson, 54
From left, Jenny Winn, 79, Sally Wilson, 55, and Pat Wilson, 54

Scalby Grange’s Pick Your Own has been a popular place for families to visit since it opened four years ago at the farm near Gilberdyke.

Its success has increased year-on-year under the ownership of Pat Wilson, 54, and his mum Jenny Winn, 79.

 

The family-run farm has been in their ownership for 50 years and they decided to take on their latest project following the success of their pick-your-own strawberry business, which attracts customers from miles around during the summer months.

Alongside his wife Sally, 55, who splits her time between the farm and her work as a part time practice nurse, Mr Wilson says this year has been busier than ever – despite the wet weather.



Pat Wilson at his pumpkin picking farm in Scalby, East Yorkshire
Pat Wilson at his pumpkin picking farm in Scalby, East Yorkshire

He said: “This last weekend just gone has been really, really  busy which is good but the weather isn’t helping. We’re getting people coming in trainers and sand shoes and we’re trying to lend Wellingtons, plastic bags for round their feet, just to keep their feet dry.

“We do warn them. They say ‘we’re alright’ and they come back absolutely blathered!

 

“The pumpkin side has been going for four years now and every year it has just grown and grown. It was Sally’s idea initially. She said ‘lets do a small pumpkin patch and see how it goes’ just to extend the strawberry season.

“Those had gone within the first week of August and we thought ‘we’re onto something here’. Year two we expanded twice as big and it was the same again. Year three, last year, we had a quarter the size of what we’ve got this year.



The team behind the pick your own pumpkin farm at Scalby Grange
The team behind the pick your own pumpkin farm at Scalby Grange

“We have seen a good increase in customers over the last five years. The reason being is social media. That is the best form of advertising. Families come out and want to take a picture of their kids eating strawberries or picking pumpkins, get it on social media and they share it with their friends and they want to do the same.

“There’s some actual monster pumpkins, huge ones, and what a lot of the trend is now is to carve it out and put holes in the bottom and the sides and actually sit a baby inside for a picture so you’ve actually got a baby with its head sticking out the top.”

 

Pat and his family plant six types of pumpkin each year – ranging from the ones you might see on the supermarket shelves to some much rarer varieties.

While they grow and sell “monster” orange pumpkins that have done his back no favours, the family farm also stocks white Polar Bear pumpkins as well as Goosebumps, Turks Turbans and Mixed Gourd.



Children from Wellybobs Day Nursery in Howden made a special visit on Wednesday
Children from Wellybobs Day Nursery in Howden made a special visit on Wednesday

The three-and-a-half acre plot, a tiny part of their 200 acre arable farm, also contains a stall where pumpkins off the vine can be purchased, as well as hot drinks and snacks to make a day of it.

But, despite their success in the relatively new venture, there is still a much bigger operation to concentrate on.

“We are a working farm. There’s a tractor on site. People think it’s just for ornate but that works everyday. It’s just to get children out in the countryside and education really – to show them how they are grown,” he said.

 

“I’m on my own. It’s a 200 acre working arable farm so we grow cereals, oil seed rape and vining peas so it needs looking after. Winter is a relatively quiet time for us so that’s when we get time to have a holiday!

“It was a family farm since the fifties. I came here when I was four-year-old and I worked on the farm right from leaving school and my father died 24 years ago so I took it on. We’ve got two boys but they both don’t work on the farm because the farm isn’t quite sustainable for another wage coming out.

“Me and my mother are a partnership so she’s a partner – a working partner but only during this period. She’s not a tractor driver!”



The farm grows thousands of pumpkins
The farm grows thousands of pumpkins

The idea to try out something new came from Pat’s wife, Sally, who took inspiration for the idea from a family trip to a similar attraction near York.

On Wednesday morning, a group of 11 youngsters from Howden’s Wellybobs Day Nursery tried their hand at picking their own pumpkins – one of a number of small groups that make special trips to the farm each year.

Describing the special tips Pat gives to the teams of pickers who descend each year, he said: “They’ll just pick the vine off and put them in the barrow. We providing buckets with brushes to give them a bit of a clean before they put them in their car.

“A tip for carving as well – once a pumpkin has been carved it lasts for up to 10 days and then it starts to deteriorate.

“If a pumpkin hasn’t been carved it will last for eight to 10 weeks.”

There is no admission charge for Scalby Grange, which is open from 10am to 5pm every day until Halloween on Thursday, October 31, although it was closed on Saturday, October 26 due to heavy rain.

Prices of all pumpkins are capped at £10, with a lowest cost of just 50p for the smallest variety.

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