Ron McMillan was surprised when he heard reports that this year’s pumpkin harvest in B.C. was turning out to be a bust.
From his vantage point at McMillan farms, the festive squash are in ample supply and ready for Kelowna residents to peruse and purchase when gates open this Saturday.
“They have a different situation in the Lower Mainland and on the Island than us,” said McMillan, referring to the reports that say supplies in those regions are down by at least 20 per cent due to the drought.
“The type of hot, dry summer they had down there was same-as-always for us.”
McMillan has drip irrigation so the pumpkins in his patch are able to deal with Okanagan heat. That’s not to say there weren’t some challenges.
“For us the difference this year is we had a late start because of the spring,” McMillan said. “There were periods where it was cold and the plants weren’t growing, then it would warm up, and get cold again.”
The warm summer actually allowed the crop to catch up. And with a little fine-tuning, he’s been able to raise the quantity and number of varieties in his patch.
“This year we have 40 different kinds of pumpkins,” he said.
“Every year we try to retire a couple that aren’t very good and come up with a couple different ones.”
Pumpkins aren’t the only new thing growing at the farm. They are also into the second year of their hop crop, which means they are one year from being good for harvest and used in local brews.
There are also a couple new activities set for the farm.
“We’re going to have a roping station, where little kids can pretend they’re lassoing a cow,” he said.
An expanded seating area will also greet visitors.
It’s clear from recent years that anything they do will be well-received. Last year 10,000 people went through the farm during the five weeks it was open.
“Every year we have a few more people coming through,” he said. “On the weekend when we were setting up we had tourists from Belgium, Hamilton, Ontario and, of course, I had some from Penticton and the wider region stopping by,” he said.
Making the farm and experience that people can enjoy has been a successful endeavour, but it’s not for everyone.
“It’s a difficult thing to get into,” he said. “If you can try to connect people to the farm in some way, so they can understand what goes on there and how you grow food …. when they see farm issues in the news it gives them a better understanding and that’s important.”