Day in the life of a pumpkin grower
PUBLISHED: 11:54 04 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:54 04 October 2014
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
John Harris on running the family farm in Southfleet with his brother and getting ready for Halloween
Name: John Wilfred Harris
Job title: Director (with my brother Mark), farm manager and general dog’s body!
Where: Manor Farm and the Broadditch Farm Shop, Southfleet
What sort of farm is it?
We have about 500 acres and the Harris family has farmed at Manor Farm for more than 150 years. Originally the farm was devoted entirely to market gardening. We had our own transport and sold into the London markets – Covent Garden and Borough. Today we predominately grow arable crops and vegetables. About 400 acres are devoted to barley, wheat and oil seed rape and 10 acres to vegetables such as several varieties of pumpkin, root crops, sweet corn, cabbage, kale, cauliflowers, potatoes, peas and so on. We grow rhubarb and have about 100 Kent cob trees (around 150 years old and still going strong).
We also have an area of wood and other land devoted to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme which makes an important environmental contribution.
What age did you start farming?
Like all farming families, I started young and by the time I was 10 I was driving a tractor. After I finished college I went out to Australia for a year and came back in 1990. Since then my brother and I have gradually taken over running the farm.
What has your training been?
I went to Hadlow College for three years, achieving a National Diploma. My brother Mark also went to Hadlow to do agriculture and land-based technology courses.
Describe a typical working day
It all depends on the time of year, of course. I am usually out of the house by about 7am and start off sorting the tills in the farm shop and other such jobs. I then spend some time in the office dealing with emails and other admin. By 9am I am out in the fields finishing drilling arable crops. Preparing for our annual Halloween event takes up a lot of time. It’s one of the biggest in Kent with a very large number of visitors and lots of people returning year after year.
Tell us about growing pumpkins
Demand for pumpkins has increased; we now grow 4,000-plus of different varieties. We aim to harvest by the end of September or beginning of October. The pumpkins are cut with their stalk intact, then consigned to wooden crates and sold in perfect condition and colour. Halloween is our busiest time, but pumpkin is used far more in cooking these days, from boiled and mashed, baked and steamed to in soups.
How do you market?
Most of the vegetables we grow are sold in our farm shop, Broadditch Farm Shop, which means customers can buy produce almost immediately it is cut. Any surplus we sell through Central Wholesale Produce who market direct to pubs and restaurants. The farm shop is very busy, as well as what we produce on the farm we also stock locally produced meat, sausages, hams, meat pies, burgers, bread, cakes, preserves and more.
Marks out of 10 for job satisfaction?
I don’t hesitate – it’s a 10. Ours is a way of life. n