Meet the owners of Yorkshire's friendliest pumpkin patch

Pumpkin-picking has become big business.

David Barker in the Lodge Farm pumpkin patch
David Barker in the Lodge Farm pumpkin patch

For the Barker family, opening a pumpkin patch on their arable farm near York was a no-brainer.

2018 was the first year the Yorkshire Pumpkins crop was grown at Lodge Farm, in Cundall, and since then David, Caroline, their son Rob and Rob's girlfriend Jen Kent have tapped into a surge in the popularity of American Halloween traditions.

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Welcome to Thorp Perrow - Yorkshire's best place to see autumn leavesThe Barkers and Jen are expecting a bumper harvest this autumn thanks to the warm, wet summer, and are starting the process of hand-picking their first batch of pumpkins - which will be sent to wholesalers and farm shops - this week.

David Barker in the Lodge Farm pumpkin patch

The pick-your-own patch, cafe and children's play area will open to the public on October 12.

"The pumpkin patch is part of our diversification of the farm - we mainly grow cereals and wheat. It's also about me and Rob - the younger generation - getting more involved. Growing pumpkins doesn't disturb the rest of the work on the farm, so it was a good opportunity. Caroline also runs a B&B on the farm so we're used to having people around," said Jen.

Other local farms such as Cannon Hall, near Barnsley, and Farmer Copley's, near Pontefract, have become major visitor attractions in the run-up to Halloween - but Jen believes Lodge Farm offers a more homely, family-orientated picking experience.

How Cannon Hall Farm transformed itself for the future"Last year the growing went well - there were more pumpkins than we expected. The feedback from visitors was that we are a really nice, small patch where you get the chance to speak to the staff. Me and Caroline run a little cafe in the barn, and we have games, a hay bale mountain and tractor rides.

The Barkers are beginning to harvest their pumpkin crop

"I think pumpkin patches are so popular now because it's such a nice, family activity for all generations. People want their children to get outside more."

As well as young families, the Barkers were surprised to find their patch was a must-visit destination for University of York students.

"We had quite a few of them - they weren't the demographic we were expecting, but we are very Instagram-friendly!"

This year they have planted several new varieties, including larger pumpkins and squash suitable for eating.

Caroline Barker picking pumpkins

The Holmfirth sheep farm that became Britain's highest vineyard"There are quite a few other pumpkin patches in the area, it seems to be more popular now - lots of farm shops have them, there's a real appetite for pumpkins. We supply wholesalers and quite a few harvest festivals.

"In future we're looking to expand the play area and improve the car parking, and just keep growing more pumpkins."

Yorkshire Pumpkins at Lodge Farm opens on the weekend of October 12 and 13 from 10am-4pm, and then daily from October 19 until Halloween. Entry is free with pumpkins costing between £1-8 depending on size. Admission to the play area costs £3 per child. Parking is available and there is a picnic area and cafe. Dogs are not allowed on the farm.

Rob, David and Caroline Barker with Rob's girlfriend Jen Kent