Piling on the pumpkins and sprucing up the barn

Local farms get ready to greet fall’s harvest of customers

Darrell Armstrong collects another box full of just-picked pumpkins Thursday at Coupeville’s Sherman Pioneer Farm fields. Bound for South Whidbey, they’ll be showing up at stores there.

Pumpkins were popped, pulled and piled this week around Whidbey as the annual celebration of the orange orb begins.

Though there’s plenty o’ pumpkins, they are smaller than some years, apparently because of the hot dry, dry summer, farmers said.

“Usually, there’s lots more big ones,” remarked Darrel Armstrong as he looked on the ten acres of pumpkins growing on Sherman’s Pioneer Farm in Coupeville alongside State Highway 20. “We have a lot of small ones but not as many big ones as we like.

“No rain. We just had no rain,” said Armstrong, who’s worked at Sherman’s for 34 years. “To be honest, we’re amazed that we got anything at all.”

Armstrong rode the tractor as his son, Jordan, and Kurtis Smith, piled pumpkins in a big box one by one. About one dozen of loaded pumpkin boxes were bound for stores on South Whidbey.

Sherman’s Pioneer Farm, known for its yellow and green trolley that carts people to its pumpkin patch, plans to begin its many autumn activities next Friday, Oct. 6. Produce sales start Sunday, Oct. 1.

Sherman’s barns just got a fresh coat of deep red paint; white trim was to be added Thursday. Getting ready for the hundreds of kids and families that visit throughout the month of October, Tim Pike arranged hay bales and gourds and a saddle-riding skeleton that kept bucking off its bones.

New this year will be a small barn converted into an antique shop. It’s named Ben and Edie’s after the farm’s past owners. A peek inside revealed old kids’ wooden school desks and other country-living artifacts.

“We’ve spent all these years collecting,” laughed Liz Sherman, who’ll be managing the shop. “Now we’re at an age where we can’t figure out why we did it.”

Case Farm, north of Oak Harbor, will open up its produce stand and pumpkin patch by next weekend.

Mechanical problems have put the farm a bit behind its usual fall schedule, she said.

“We have a lot of really cool gourds this year, both for decorating and eating,” she said. “It’s cool to be able to decorate with food and then get to eat it.”

Pointing to rows of “weird oddball” colorful gourds and squash, and experimental plants, Case-Smith rattled off the names: Turk’s Turban, Guatemalan blue squash, Italian zucchini, avocado squash.

“The avocado squash flesh is golden yellow and can be eaten raw. Lots of things get eaten raw in the fields while we’re working,” she says. “Which is a good thing because we never have time or energy to prepare them at the end of the long days.”

She and her husband, Mike, son Peter, and daughter Elizabeth, who came from California, spent the week sorting beautiful ears of dried corn, cutting many different-colored pumpkins from dried vines and preparing their produce stand.

There were also still lots of little tomatoes to fill many picking baskets.

This time of year, Case Farm is a destination of a true ‘field’ trip for many young schoolchildren from Oak Harbor. They learn how vegetables grow and where Thanksgiving’s main dish comes from.

“This is a unique place,” Case-Smith said. “Farms, especially multi-generational farms, are hard to find these days, especially on Whidbey.”

The farm relied on the irrigation system snaking through many growing fields to get through the dry summer. Its pumpkins grow on about one acre and are also plentiful and small to medium in size.

“My husband is Mr. Pumpkin,” Case-Smith said. “He likes to make the kids a little loop around the turkeys and peacocks and into the pumpkin patch where they scramble around.”

Case Farm, which is 90 acres, is gearing up for next year’s 120th celebration of its founding. Sheila Case-Smith is the fourth generation of the Case family to operate the farm that’s harvesrted many crops and raised many animals, including cattle and thousands of turkeys, over the years.

Currently, ancient grains amaranth and quinoa are growing to see how they take.

Case Farm , located at 98 Case Road Case Road, off State Highway 20, Oak Harbor

Opens first week of October, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Open weekends and honesty box for produce during the week. Sells many kinds of pumpkins for carving and baking, also gourds, squash and corn for eating and decorating. Pick your own pumpkin or buy at the produce stand.

Phone: 360-675-1803

www.facebook.com/casefarmonwhidbey/

Sherman’s Pioneer Farm and Produce, located at 46 S. Ebey Road, Coupeville

Produce for sale starting Sunday, Oct. 1, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Seasonal activities begin Oct. 6 and go through the month. Weekend events include a trolley ride to pumpkin patch, the Trebuchet medieval fling aimed at hungry cows, haunted barn, hay bale maze and more. Sells pumpkins for carving and pies. Many decorative gourds and famous for its Hubbard squash. Halloween Harvest Celebration: Oct. 28 all day. New this year is an antique shop in a small barn.

Phone: 360-678-4675

www.facebook.com/SPFProduce/

www.shermanspioneerfarm.com

Oak Harbor’s Case Farm grows a variety of decorative and edible squash and corn. It’s preparing to open this week for fall harvest.

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