Pumpkins Galore!

Get ready for Dowhill’s Pumpkin Fest

Gill Sherry

This year’s Pumpkin Festival at Dowhill Farm, Turnberry, takes place from 14th to 22nd October where you can not only choose your perfect pumpkin but also test your orienteering skills in the maize maze, dig your own vegetables and try your hand at a whole new form of golf!
Carole’s pumpkin journey at Dowhill started in 2018 when she experimented with growing pumpkins for the first time and family, friends and locals came to the patch. A former primary school teacher, Carole is from a sheep farming family and wanted to combine her love of teaching with her farming background.
“I’m quite an active campaigner in wanting people to know a bit more about rural life and where food comes from. I’d love there to be more opportunities for children to be able to come out to farms and see where produce comes from… that it’s not the perfect, washed item they see on the supermarket shelf.”
So, in addition to the many other vegetables already grown on the farm, Carole decided to experiment with pumpkins.
“It was a challenge learning to grow pumpkins, it’s not an exact science. Weeding them has been the biggest issue, and this year has been particularly challenging. It’s a constant battle in this muggy weather to make sure the pumpkin plants get the very best start.”
Carole has a real passion for her project. In fact, to use her own words, her family becomes ‘demented’ with her talking all things pumpkin!
“I’ve enjoyed the success of learning to grow different varieties. They’ve got amazing names like Harvest Moon, Big Loretta, Casperetta, Jill-be-Little, Spooktacular, Jack O’Lantern, and Warty Goblin. Also Polar Bears which are becoming increasingly popular because of their ghoulish colour. They provide a blank canvas for art projects and some people think they are more malleable and easier to carve.”
Despite the challenges, the pumpkins have continued to grow and so too has the festival which boasts a different theme each year.
“My theme this year is the crucial role that bees play in all of us having healthy, colourful food to eat. There is a trail around the maze relating to this with different clues to solve and characters to meet.”
In addition to the maize maze (don’t worry, there are clues to point you in the right direction) and the pumpkin patch, kids can also go on a barrel ride, play golf, pull their own carrots and turnips, or have a go at wellie tossing!
“Children always love the carrots,” Carole tells me. “You find them digging carrots out the ground and brushing them off and having a bite there and then. They’re easy to pull out of the soil and it’s great to see kids eating veg straight from the field. I think the thing people enjoy most is the open space and the dirty, clean fun!”
Ultimately, though, it’s the pumpkins that attract the most attention. But don’t be fooled into thinking they’re only for kids.
“Some people come looking for gigantic ones. I’ve had some beautiful photos from people who have taken them home and carved them out to put their new-born baby inside, plus some truly amazing photos of pumpkins boasting cityscapes, album covers and portraits carved into their skin.”
The price of the pumpkins is based on size rather than weight. Using a sizing board, if you can get your pumpkin through the hole in the board, that’s the size/price of your pumpkin.
Inevitably, not all of these giant, autumnal vegetables will be sold. Some will be mulched so the nutrients go straight back into the ground. Others are donated to local schools, nurseries, or charities after the festival. The majority, though, will either be carved or consumed, the number of recipes for this Halloween favourite providing an endless list of inspiration.
The Crawford family can’t wait to welcome yearly visitors back and new faces to the patch.
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