Pumpkins with a difference
When Kevin and Keara Gallant went into the pumpkin farming business in 2017, they knew they had to do something different. It worked so well that Kevin became one of a select group of farmers who are new and full time.
After buying the 25-acre farm in 2016, the couple looked at options for their farm.
“Our first vision was to turn it into a vineyard,” he said of the farm. “When we researched that the first year and found there’s a 10-year commitment before you make a dollar. I said there’s no way I can go 10 years without making a dollar.”
Kevin noted there were already many roadside pumpkin stands and knew they needed something that would be an attraction.
Located on Highway 24, they are in a prime, high-traffic area.
Kevin grew up on a farm in the Flamborough area, with his parents being into market gardening. He worked in the farmer’s markets for a time with them in the 1990s.
In 2017, Kevin’s cousin gave him a bucket of pumpkin seed, which he used to plant five acres. They picked all the pumpkins themselves by hand and ended up with 150 bins. Most of those went to a grocery store and the remainder were put for sale out at the road. The Gallants were impressed with the number that were sold at the road and they had to replenish their supply.
With this being the second relationship for both, they each brought three children – all of which are older. They decided to name the business after their daughter together – Presley. Kevin also noted there was some rhyming with the name Presley’s Pumpkin Patch.
The following year they came up with the name and pick-your-own was started.
In 2019, sweet corn was also grown on the farm and sold to his parents for the farm markets they went to.
By the time 2020 hit, more land was needed and five acres was rented from a neighbour. An extension was put on the barn for games like pumpkin bowling and basketball. The thought was these would be entertainment for youth and it would attract more people. Instead, COVID hit and the new addition couldn’t be used, nor could the corn maze they created. This turned out to be a mixed blessing though. Although there was no use of the other facilities, people were getting itchy to get out of the house. “I think that was what put us over the top is people were looking for something to do,” Kevin said.
A setback was suffered in 2021 after the Gallants rented another eight acres. Disease wiped out half the crop and they had to buy pumpkins to ensure there was enough for the roadside and pick-your-own.
Kevin lost his day job at Stelco this year and made the decision in January to farm full time. He planted 50 acres, of which 22 are pumpkins, 22 is in sweet corn and the remainder is a mixture of ornamental corn, cantaloupe and watermelon. He took over his parent’s stands in the famer markets and added to it, now doing markets in Burlington, Milton and Ancaster.
The ornamental pumpkins – they grow 14 varieties – and ornamental corn and gourds are sold to Terra Greenhouses for fall decorations. Some of this is also sold at the roadside stand. The produce is all sold at farmer’s markets.
The growth in the last five years has been incredible. The first year of pick-your-own, two carts were bought for customers to use when picking. Now there are 12, and on busy days it’s still not enough. The business was started with one older tractor and three more had to be purchased. The first year pumpkin deliveries were done without having a truck. Now there are two stake trucks delivering Pressley’s Pumpkin Patch pumpkins and going to farmer’s markets. “You have to keep up with what’s popular,” he said. “This year the white pumpkins are popular and the fairy tale aren’t popular.”
The pumpkins are still picked by hand though by Kevin, Keara and one seasonal employee.
At 52 years-old, Kevin is determined to buck the trend and start as a new full-time farmer.
The days have been long with three farmer’s markets. He leaves at 3 a.m. and doesn’t get back until 9 p.m. for two of the markets. Another day, he and Keara are both going to different markets.
Kevin’s biggest worry is he has one customer who takes all the pumpkins. He also struggled to have enough land to rotate the way he wanted. Next year he rented another 50 acres and plans to put in field corn for rotation.
“I’ve never been this big in farming or dedicated to making it work,” he said. “We’re not going to fail at this.”