I want to call the McMillan Pumpkin Patch one of Kelowna’s hidden treasures, but judging by the number of families that descend on the 110 acre working farm every year, “hidden” is probably the wrong word.
I first heard about the Berard Road property (just off KLO, heading toward East Kelowna) two years ago. In addition to showing the kids where their food comes from – not just a big bin in the produce section of the grocery store – our traditional visit to pick out a pumpkin or two makes for a great afternoon out.
The farm – which boasts the city’s largest pumpkin patch and largest corn maze – started opening to the public in 2005. However, the land has been farmed by the McMillan family since 1950, when Ross and Jean McMillan purchased a dairy farm in that location. They quit dairy and started hay production in the early 1970s and, in 2004 Ross’s grandson Ron and his wife Colleen planted the first pumpkin patch.
Ron and Colleen were raising their four kids, now aged eight, 14, 18 and 18, down at the Coast when they were inspired to move to the old family property and try their hand at agri-tourism.
“It was basically through the kids that we got the idea,” Colleen told The Pear Tree. “They would go on field trips with their schools, to nearby farms. They loved it. We didn’t know of anything like it in Kelowna, and thought we should try.”
While they already spent their holidays in Kelowna on the family farm, making the move from big city to rural Kelowna was a change for almost all of them. Ron had grown up on the McMillan Farm, but everyone else faced a learning curve. So far, Colleen reports, all have survived – and even thrived, despite the hard work and long days.
“They love it,” she said.
Their first year on the farm they started with 100 pumpkins. Selling out brought the family great excitement, and increased ambition.
This year, they planted close to 8,000 plants and Colleen estimates that by the end of the season they will have yielded some 6,000 pumpkins.
They also offer hay rides that take visitors on a bouncy, tractor-led ride around the property, past the big pumpkin patch and through a herd of cows. Yes, through – as in, you could almost touch one or two if you were brave enough.
Back in the main yard, there are tables and bins full of pumpkins and gourds in a vast array of shapes, sizes and colours.
But before sorting through for the perfect one (or ones), there is a little hay maze to explore, a corn pit (a sandbox with corn instead of sand), a pumpkin sling shot and large and small corn maze to navigate.
Photo ops are everywhere, from rustic bales of hay or corn stalk backdrops to scenes and characters painted on boards with the faces cut out. I quite liked this little graveyard, with inscriptions on the stones that said things like, “Here lies the Pillsbury Dough Boy. He will rise again.”
During the week, the pumpkin patch offers school tours, and they also have group packages for churches, companies or other large assemblies.
They open from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. daily until Oct. 31.
– Words and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier