By Andrew Campbell
Whenever I talk to a farmer, it is clear that they are fully committed to their work and firmly believe in the safety and quality of their product. It is like a special kind of pride they carry with them. But for Kelsey, her commitment is next level. It’s an unmatched passion – for pumpkins. When it comes to the pumpkins from Kelsey’s farm, they aren’t about to end up as pumpkin spice anything. Instead, they’ll take up the front steps of a house on Halloween, or add their vibrant orange to a wedding backdrop. Her crop is entirely for families to come and choose that perfect one and take home for whatever fall tradition they have with it. So come and see just what a passion for pumpkins looks like, along with how they grow, at Laurel Lea Farms of Orangeville, Ontario.
Why did Laurel Lea Farms start grow pumpkins?
Every farm has its challenges which sometimes dictates what they grow. Laurel Lea Farms is close to Orangeville and only an hour from downtown Toronto so the cost of land is really expensive. They are not a huge farming operation and the cost of land made it too expensive to buy more land to grow crops on. Kelsea wanted to work with what she had and surrounded by urban sprawl she rationalized that she likes people and people love pumpkins.
How do you grow a pumpkin crop?
Seeds are purchased from a seed company for planting in the spring. Pumpkin seeds are planted into the soil with a finger planter that can plant four rows at one time. The finger planter is pulled by a tractor and the seeds drop out into the soil as the tractor moves forward. Only two rows of the finger planter’s four-row capability are used because pumpkins have to be spaced far apart as they need a large growing area. The row spacing for seeding pumpkins is 60 inches.
How do you take care of a pumpkin plant?
Pumpkin plants are very sensitive so farmers usually walk through the pumpkin fields looking for signs of any diseases. If there are pests, such as the cucumber beetle, farmers use insecticides to stop an outbreak. If left unchecked, pests can damage the pumpkins making them unattractive to consumers and also reduce overall yields. By walking out and checking the pumpkin crop, Kelsea can catch pests early and prevent widespread pest damage to their pumpkins.
How are pumpkins harvested?
Once the pumpkins are fully ripened and orange, workers go through and cut the pumpkins off the vine, leaving a three to four-inch stem on each one. The stem doubles as a handle because most people want to be able to use pumpkins for Jack-O’-Lanterns. Once cut off the plant, pumpkins are gathered by hand into a trailer for transport to market. Some farms run “you pick” operations where customers can come and harvest their own pumpkin.
Are there different varieties? Who usually purchases the pumpkins?
There are so many different varieties of pumpkins that can be grown on the farm. Laurel Lea Farms grows everything from Jack-O-Lanterns to mini pumpkins to pie pumpkins. They even grew some Pink Pumpkins last year. Laurel Lea Farms also custom grew pumpkins for 5 brides last year as decorations for their weddings.
Watch the full video from the Dinner Starts Here Series by Fresh Air Farmer Andrew Campbell