IT’s officially the most wonderful time of the year for Joe’s Farm in Killeagh, East Cork, as spooky season dawns and the family’s pumpkin picking events steam ahead.
This is the third year in a row that Joe and Sandra Burns have transformed a portion of their family farm into an American-style pumpkin patch and as word continues to spread, the demand for their ‘picker passes’ is soaring.
Upwards of 500 visitors a day have been visiting the farm every weekend in the lead up to Halloween.
Video by Mostafa Darwish
It can be stressful, but the family has been delighted to welcome visitors from all over Ireland for an event that has been 10 months in the making, with planting usually taking place in January.
“This has been the best year yet. Originally, we started off just doing it for schools and it’s gone a little crazy since,” said Sandra Burns.
“We have people coming back annually now.
"There’s one family with twins and the boys celebrate their birthday here every year. Seeing them return and grow, it’s brilliant.”
The couple first started planting pumpkins five years ago after a trip to Boston, where they were inspired to use the idea of pumpkin picking to teach children about growing vegetables.
“We went to visit Joe’s sister over 19 years ago and he asked her to take us to the countryside. We went apple and pumpkin picking and we had an absolute ball,” Ms Burns said.
“If you asked me what else we did on the trip I wouldn’t know but that day just sticks out. It was brilliant.”
Her husband Joe was equally inspired.
“We first got the idea nearly 20 years ago and it’s only catching on now. It’s growing and growing,” he said.
“We have to diversify here on the farm in order to survive.”
As well as starting to produce their now-famous Joe’s Farm Crisps, another part of that diversification was deciding to open their own patch in Cork where visitors would pick an array of vegetables as well as pumpkins.
It’s safe to say that so far, the system is working.
“At the end of the day, we’re vegetable farmers and we want people to eat more veg. So, we especially love to talk to children, “ said Ms Burns.
“I think it’s vital for children to know where their food comes from and to see it outside of the plastic bag in the shop.
“I remember one mother wrote to us after a visit and said that her daughter had been on various medications and had never eaten veg before but had eaten what she picked here that day. That’s what it’s all about.”