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This is how pumpkin picking season is shaping up in Vancouver

Aldor Acres Family Farm in Langley currently has "an abundance of pumpkins" ready to be picked from its 20-acre patch.
aldor acres family farm pumpkin patch langley
Aldor Acres Family Farm pumpkin patch in Langley. Photo by Lindsay William-Ross

It's officially October. In Metro Vancouver, that means changing leaves, a crispness in the air, a few drizzly days, and, best of all, pumpkin patches. 

So, how is this fall's pumpkin harvest looking for the Lower Mainland? Better than a lot of things that have happened in 2020, according to Gail Anderson of Aldor Acres Family Farm in Langley. 

At Aldor Acres—which boasts a total of 80 acres of farmland, specifically—there is a wide range of pumpkin varieties of all sizes that are ripe and ready to be picked from the farm's 20-acre pumpkin patch, despite the fact that this summer's weather wasn't exactly perfect for pumpkin growing. 

"We have an abundance of pumpkins, but because of our wetter July, and then a warmer August, we didn't get the growth out of some of our varieties," said Anderson. However, she added, "We plant about 20 different kinds of pumpkins, so, some are on the smaller side but then others that we were expecting to be large, they got there. So it's interesting how each variety responds to the temperatures." 

As Anderson explains, B.C. pumpkins tend to thrive when mid-20-degree temperatures stick around consistently throughout the summer months. 

"That's [when] their growth spurt [happens], really. In early July, all of our fields are covered with bright yellow blossoms, and one of our family members is a beekeeper, so that's when pollination occurs. And then by early July, pumpkins are starting to set and then the growth is happening all throughout July and August and early September." 

Thankfully, nights have remained on the warmer side throughout September, Anderson added. 

"As soon as we get a colder night—which we haven't quite gotten, we haven't had any frost which is great—the plants will start to wilt. So far we're doing quite well." 

Aldor Acres does have an irrigation system in place, which "really helps just for [the pumpkins'] size and growth, because on some of those hot days in August, the plants will completely wilt. But if we're able to irrigate ... then those plants perk up again, so it's pretty neat to see that throughout the month."

At Aldor Acres, pumpkins currently found in the patch range from grapefruit-sized mini pumpkins and volleyball-sized varieties—"Those are our sugar pies, which are sweeter and have a thicker pulp so that's what is best for baking," Anderson added—to standard pumpkins that are "a little bit bigger than a basketball," and even Atlantic Giant pumpkins that grow to be 75 pounds or more. "They've got a lighter flesh, almost a peach color instead of the orange, and they're quite decorative," explained Anderson. 

"Definitely children that come can find a pumpkin that fits their size," she said. "There is something for everybody."

No matter what size of pumpkin you're after this autumn, heading to a pumpkin patch is a fairly safe and socially-distanced way to have some fun in the fresh air, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress. 

The farm has installed even more hand-washing and sanitizing stations than they already had available pre-pandemic, while staff will be wearing masks and requiring guests to wear masks while inside the property's barn. "Even though the barns have lots of open air, just that's an area where there might be a higher density of people," Anderson added.  Aldor Acres is also limiting the amount of people it allows onto the premises to 50 per cent of its capacity, in an effort to support social distancing, and requires guests to book into time slots spread throughout the day. 

"There's plenty of space for people to come and the feedback we've gotten is quite positive, because people just want to get out and be out in nature like Dr Bonnie Henry says," said Anderson. 

And, while Aldor Acres usually welcomes classes on field trips during the fall months, staff have instead organized a portable pumpkin patch and petting zoo that can be transported to local schools. "Specific classes have to have that happen on their sports field or in the parking lot," Anderson explained. "If not everybody can come to us then we'll go to them."

But with Halloween still several weeks away, how should pumpkin-pickers keep their Jack-O-Lanterns from rotting before the holiday arrives? 

"When people take a pumpkin home, they should not put it directly on concrete, because that just transmits the cooler temperature quicker and then it increases the potential for rot," Anderson explained. "Instead, just put it on a piece of cardboard, even just a cereal box in between, because that adds a layer of warmth ...  or buy one of our mini hay bales and put the pumpkin right on top of the mini hay bale and make some sort of front porch decoration." 

Anderson also discourages pumpkin-pickers from creating indoor decorations with their finds. "There's so much moisture in a pumpkin, that the increased [chance] for rot is there, so it's better just to keep them outside," she said. "We always like to do an indoor Thanksgiving decoration for our own families, so we'll just use [the pumpkins] for two days and then put them back outside." 

Aldor Acres is open daily for pumpkin picking until Oct. 31. To purchase tickets and book a time slot to visit to the farm's walk-thru or drive-thru pumpkin patch experiences, visit Aldor Acres website