Jason Butler grows Halloween pumpkins in Bewholme, near Bridlington in East Yorkshire.
It was a pleasure to drive over to visit Jason for Dalesman Magazine. Jason’s home is in a land of rich, fertile soil, big skies, and lots of light reflected from the nearby sea – ideal land for the sun-loving big orange pumpkin. Jason began growing them a few years ago, when he decided he’d like to try something different on the family smallholding.
As a child, Jason recalls carving pumpkins from the family vegetable patch into lanterns for a halloween party in the village hall. In ancient times, the halloween lantern was carved to scare off ghosts and evil spirits. Nowadays, it’s an entertainment for the half-term holidays. Jason says, “It’s becoming increasingly popular. It breaks up the autumn, and gives something to look forward to – an alternative to a Bonfire.”
Pumpkin is also, he maintains, an under-used vegetable. Jason also grows squashes, which he finds a more practical size for a vegetable – ‘you don’t want to bore yourself’ – and, he thinks, have more flavour. He says, “People make them into soups, or use them as a roasting vegetable. And, because of the quirky patterns and shapes, people use them for table decorations.”
Pumpkins, however, are the big seller for halloween, and he has a production line of family members to carve them into lanterns. His top tip? An ice-cream scoop to remove the seeds and soft flesh, leaving about an inch inside the skin. “Add a tea light – but it scorches the lid, so keep an eye on it.”
Pumpkins are a part-time venture for Jason, who works full time as an agricultural engineer. It’s hard work, as, he says, pumpkins are labour-intensive. He has to start the seeds in cold frames, sown in pots in April. At the end of May, he transfers the plants into the field. Thereafter, they need feeding, weeding, watering, and monitoring for pests. Then, when they ripen in autumn, they must be harvested by hand, cleaned, sorted, and sent to customers.
Jason enjoys meeting his customers, commenting, “People call here and say what they’re going to do with them. Chatting’s nice. It’s nice that people appreciate what you’re growing.”
Juggling his pumpkins with a ‘day job’ in agricultural engineering isn’t easy, but, says Jason, “I enjoy farming – and it’s more fun than watching TV.”
Jason’s pumpkins are available at local shows, selected farm shops, and from the farm gate in Bewholme. Contact Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Tel 07890 346717
Read more about Jason in A Colourful Crop, in Dalesman Magazine, October 2015