- October 11th 2013
With Halloween just around the corner, we caught up with Caroline Smith, a pumpkin farmer from Surrey. We get her top tips for cooking with pumpkins, as well as an insight into what it takes to be a pumpkin farmer.
When & why did you start farming pumpkins?
My husband Paul and I starting growing pumpkins about 25 years ago when we moved from Kent to where we live now at Crockford Bridge Farm, New Haw, Surrey. My husband grows a variety of pick your own crops, starting with asparagus, all the beautiful summer soft fruits such as raspberries, strawberries etc. and decided that it would be nice to venture into squashes and pumpkins in the autumn before we start our Christmas tree season in December.
What’s your favorite recipe using pumpkin?
Valentine Warner visited us at the farm to check out our strawberries and raspberries a couple of years ago. I love all his recipes as they are simple and seasonal I particularly like his 'Dad's Pumpkin Soup'. It's rich and earthy and has a good slug of sherry and it's fun serving it in the pumpkin. Also after carving, instead of wasting the pumpkin seeds we love to toast them in a pan with a bit of chilli powder and paprika, adding a spoonful of Crockford Bridge honey at the end for some sweetness.
What advice would you give to someone trying to start their own home grown business?
I think it's important to focus on your customer base when you start any homegrown business, no matter how small or large it is. At the end of the day, whatever you're product is, make sure that there is a market for it. I think it is so important to be unique and innovative when you're running a Farm Shop/Pick Your Own business such as ours. We try and offer something original and different as we are surrounded by supermarkets and find that our customers particularly enjoy a more natural experience that isn't too commercial, whether it's enjoying a hand made ice cream after picking their own, experiencing a theatrical experience in the woods for Halloween or having fun digging your own Christmas Tree next to Santa's Secret Forest. I think it's very important to have a clear vision of what your business is all about and whom it's going to appeal to.
If you didn't have the farm what would you do?
Well, I was a fashion buyer for a top designer in my 20’s that is a far cry from selling strawberries and pumpkins! However I love to change the shop around throughout the seasons scouting for different farm antiques for my displays (as well as for my farm, house!) So I think an antique dealer/decorative stylist would be a fun job.
How many pumpkins do you normally sell at Halloween?
Our pumpkin sales are getting bigger every year as Halloween is becoming more and more popular. We sell about 2000 pumpkins from our Farm Shop and Pumpkin Patch / Ice Scream Parlor! These vary from tiny ones - 'munchkins', to the largest 'Atlantic Giant’ which weigh nearly 50 kilos.
Tell us what you love most about your job?
I love it when customers really understand what we do here and are really complimentary about the Farm and all that we grow. Life is never dull living on a farm, there's always lots going on. On the hottest day of this year, a photographer was doing a photo shoot for the most exclusive 'Grocers' Christmas catalogue and a large area of our woodland was 'snowed up' and a beautiful horse was dressed as a unicorn, grazing by the river, it made me smile and I realised that sometimes you just have to take the time to appreciate it.
For more information on Crockford Bridge Farm and to look at our seasonal activities this Halloween and Christmas please check out our links below!