This autumn in particular pumpkin-picking has emerged as a Covid-safe outdoor activity for families.
It is no exaggeration to say that 2020 has been a catastrophic year for plenty of industries.
However, Inews reports that one group of people celebrating this autumn is Britain’s pumpkin farmers. Tesco’s dedicated grower Oakley Farms, near Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, has said that demand for sweet, edible pumpkins has soared to record levels.
The farm grows about five million pumpkins each year and this year it has planted 100,000 of the eating variety, which represents a 150 per cent increase over the past two years.
For Holly Bell of Bells Horticultural, a family-run plant nursery in Boston, Lincolnshire, there has “absolutely been an increase in interest and demand” recently, with production growing year on year.
At Essington Farm in Wolverhampton, pumpkins have become one of the biggest-selling foods alongside meat and other veg. Richard Simkin, who co-owns Essington and lives there with his family, says pumpkins started off in a “very modest” way and now he is planting 30,000 a year.
While supermarkets like Tesco are selling more pumpkins than ever, there has also been an explosion in popularity of pick-your-own pumpkin patches across the UK. Tulleys Farm in Crawley, West Sussex, first grew pumpkins in 1994, but over the past five years has seen a 25 to 50 per cent year-on-year rise in footfall to its pick-your-own patch.
It now has 100 acres of pumpkins in which half a million grow a year. Further north at Essington Farm, 95 per cent of pumpkins are now sold through pick-your-own activities.
What is at the root of this food’s growth in popularity? Farmers have noticed a greater interest in the healthy benefits of the versatile squash, and this autumn in particular pumpkin-picking has emerged as a Covid-safe outdoor activity for families.
It is also down to the UK looking at the pumpkin’s starring role across the pond. “As with many things, the US has background influence on UK habits,” says Ms Bell. “In the US pumpkins are celebrated throughout the whole of the autumn.”
Tulleys Farm believes the squash’s popularity is largely down to pop culture and social media. “People saw lots of pumpkins in the Harry Potter books and films,” says a spokesman.
“More recently they have seen them on display on Instagram and YouTubers like Zoella decorating their porches with pumpkins at Halloween. People want to go to pumpkin farms, take pictures with family and friends, and put them on Instagram.”
To meet the increase in demand, pumpkin farmers across the UK have trialled and developed commercial production of much bigger
pumpkins; the kind you see in blockbuster Halloween films, or Harry Potter.
Farmers i spoke to said they hoped the pumpkin would become a staple of our diets through the whole season, where pumpkin pie becomes as common a lemon drizzle cake.
There is hope, too, that we will increasingly start celebrating autumn as a whole season, as the US does, instead of just Halloween itself. ” We would like to see a move towards that in the UK,” says Ms Bell, “where we feel retailers jump into Christmas way too soon.”
While the success of any pumpkin crop depends on the weather – 2018 was an excellent year, while this year has been a little trickier due to the changeable weather – pumpkin farmers are feeling good. “The demand we are seeing for this year is incredible,” says Tulleys Farm, despite trick-or-treating being cancelled for most children across the UK.
It’s a hugely uncertain time, but for pumpkin farmers in 2020, the future’s bright, the future’s orange.
(Story source: Inews)