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Sunnyfields Farm set to open for pumpkin picking and colourful squash displays in October

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WITH autumn fast approaching and Halloween just around the corner, Sunnyfields Farm in Totton is offering the Pumpkin Experience with pick-your-own and colourful displays featuring dozens of squash varieties.

From 2nd October families can visit the farm in Jacob’s Gutter Lane and fill their wheelbarrow with the orange fruit for carving, decorating or eating.

There will also be displays featuring thousands of pumpkins that are collected from the surrounding fields and strategically placed in the heart of the farm to wow visitors.

Ian and Louise Nelson
Ian and Louise Nelson

Ian and Louise Nelson, who started the farm in 1990, have been busy laying the groundwork for the popular annual attraction since January when the seeds were ordered.

“It is not just the orange pumpkin that we all know and love,” said Ian. “Some of the varieties include Casperita, Polar Bear, Munchkin, Warty Goblin and Harvest Moon, to name just a few.

“Like many fruits and vegetables, it can often be tempting to sow or plant them too early in the season, to get that edge, but being caught by a late frost is always a risk, so they go in the ground around mid-May.

“The plants spend their first two months building up root sets and growing their tendrils. Around mid-July, they flower and get pollinated, helped by the bees, and spend the next two months piling on the pounds. They are then windrowed off the plant to let the skins set in the sun.”

The farm features impressive displays
The farm features impressive displays

Most pumpkins are edible, said Ian, although it is the squashes, which are also available at the farm, that are the real flavour winners.

“Varieties including the Onion, Crown Prince and Gem Rolet are a must,” continued Ian. “There are not many edible fruits that you can use for months to decorate your kitchen table and get a tasty meal from!”

It is anticipated the event will attract more than 50,000 people, with October half-term expected to be an especially popular time for pumpkin picking.

“As the evenings draw in it can be a challenge to find things to do,” said Ian. “But pumpkin time at Sunnyfields Farm is certainly one for the list. We promise to give you that magical autumn fix, and the team here can’t wait to see all your pumpkin pictures.”

Pumpkin-picking pups
Pumpkin-picking pups

The site also hosts a farm shop, run by Louise, which stocks seasonal vegetables picked from the farm that morning. All the meat is free-range from the farm butchery, and the sausage rolls are baked daily.

“As well as offering our own fresh produce, we support many other local producers from the New Forest and surrounding area,” said Louise. “Seasonal events throughout the year, such as the Pumpkin Experience, bring families onto the farm and get them more in touch with where their food comes from.”

The couple met while working for Voluntary Service Overseas in Malawi – Ian worked as a horticultural officer and Louise a teacher.

They started Sunnyfields with the help of a £1,000 Prince’s Trust grant, which was used to buy their first tractor, the David Brown 995 which is now retired and acts as the water fountain on the site’s well-known Pyramid Field.

Fun for the whole family
Fun for the whole family

Over the past 31 years, the farm has diversified from growing vegetables to hosting a farm shop, butchery, in-house production kitchen, bakery, and live music events. With the Sunflower Time event having recently drawn to a close, it is all hands on deck for the pumpkins.

“If there is something that being in business for many seasons teaches you, it is that you need to keep innovating and diversifying,” said Ian. “You never know what is around the corner; a financial crisis, a pandemic, or a farmer’s favourite topic – the weather!”

The farm shop is the constant year-round and is open seven days a week.

To book a ticket for the Pumpkin Experience and secure a time slot, go to www.pumpkintime.co.uk

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