It is estimated that 95% of the fruits and 50% of vegetables consumed in the UK come from abroad. Pollution caused by food miles is truly a matter of concern. What we can do to help is shopping locally, at a farmers’ market or farm shop, or picking your own food at a local farm. By doing so, not only food miles, but also packaging is reduced. Even more, the produce you get directly from farmers are always fresher, healthier and taste better.
Moreover, there are lots of fun and many to discover when you pick your own. Parents may use this opportunity to teach their children where the food comes from, while also enjoying a day out of family fun.
The season to pick your own pumpkins
When looking for fresh local produce, you should bear in mind the seasons. Crops are seasonal and subject to the weather. The pick-your-own season mostly starts in April with rhubarb and asparagus, followed by berries in summer. From June to August, it’s a big moment for berry lovers. Strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants, all are available at roughly the same time. Also found in summer are vegetables like broad beans, spinach, carrots, beetroots, garlic and spring onions. In August, there are sweetcorn and sunflowers as well. Finally in autumn/October, pumpkins and gourds are expected.
While the pick-your-own season is ending and many fields in Oxfordshire have been closed for this year, there’s still a last chance to pick your own pumpkins in October and have fun decorating to celebrate Halloween. Here are two major pick-your-own pumpkin patches in Oxfordshire:
Kingston Road, Frilford, Abingdon OX13 5HB
Millets Farm is a homegrown business run by the Carter family since 1952. With over 500 acres of farmland, they are committed to their farming heritage and growing their own fruits and vegetables remains their core business.
This extensive farm centre consists of a farm shop, garden centre, gallery, café, restaurant, farm zoo, playground, falconry site, summer maze and a number of pick-your-own fields.
Their Halloween Spook-tacular Farm includes pumpkin picking, a circus, disco and reptile shack. Their pick-your-own pumpkins will open for weekends from 24th September and then daily from 15th-31st October. Admission to the patch is from £1.50-£2.50 per person, varying with dates of entry. Then you pay for what you pick, depending on pumpkin size and variety. Children under 2 years old can enter the field free of charge.
Stanton St. John OX33 1HF
The Stanley family has been farming the land at Rectory Farm since 1954. And the farm opened its pick-your-own in 1981, with a modest 1.5 acres of strawberries and half an acre of raspberries. Today the pick-your-own fields take up 45 acres at their main site and a further 60 acres of asparagus fields nearby. There are also a farm shop, café and adventure playground near the main fields.
Their pumpkin patch will open in October for customers to pick their own orange, white, green, multi-coloured and dinky pumpkins. There is a variety of selection, from traditional orange Racers, usually between 4-6kg, to tasty Crown Prince Squash which is dark grey bluish in colour, and ornamental gourds for table and window displays.
There will be Halloween-themed tricks and treats in the shop and café, from spooky iced biscuits to warming Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
Looking forward to pick your own in 2023
If that’s not enough for you, there are actually a few more pick-your-own farms in Oxfordshire. While most of them have been closed for this year, you may keep an eye and get ready for the picking fun in next spring and summer.
- Medley Manor Farm
Binsey Lane, Oxford OX2 0NJ
It is a small family-run farm in Binsey in the heart of Oxford City. The Gee family acquired Medley Manor Farm in 1958. They started the pick-your-own in 1980, mainly selling strawberries. Now it is extended to other fruits and vegetables such as asparagus and raspberries. Found in the farm is a herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle and a pick-your-own field, which, together with a pop-up café, are open in summer months for the public.
- The Old Farm Shop
Milton Hill, Harwell, Abingdon OX14 4DP
The Old Farm Shop is a family run business. It is open daily for the public to visit farm animals and buy fresh and seasonal produce. Many berries and currants, and also broad beans, cabbages, cauliflowers, peas, pumpkins, runner beans, spinach, sweetcorn are available. The pick-your-own season usually begins in the mid of June. They also have around 30 Aberdeen Angus cows and three different breeds of sheep, offering home reared free-range meat. Their homemade goods ranging from pies, cakes and breads to chutneys, jams and pickles are all made with their home grown produce. “Not technically organic, but no sprays or chemicals are used,” they said.
- Peach Croft Farm
Radley, Abingdon OX14 2HP
The Homewood family has been rearing award-winning Christmas turkeys and geese for eighty years at the farm. Their farm shop stocks soft fruits, vegetables, free-range eggs and poultry, cakes, pies, preserves, etc. Their pick-your-own asparagus usually begins in mid-April until around midway through June.
- Q Gardens
Milton Hill, Steventon, Abingdon OX13 6AB
Their farm shop opens daily, stocking produce that has been grown, reared or made locally, including fruits from their own orchards and meat from their own farm. They open for pick-your-own cherries, strawberries and raspberries early summer.
- Sotwell Manor Fruit Farm
High Road, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Wallingford OX10 0PS
Brightwell-cum-Sotwell is situated in South Oxfordshire. It lies between Didcot to the west and the historic market town of Wallingford to the east. The farm is open daily from early May to October for picking your own strawberries, gooseberries, and black and red currants.
Grasp this year’s last chance to visit a pick-your-own farm nearby. Or shop at a local farmers’ market. Both allow you to build a connection to the place where your food comes from — and you’ll appreciate every bite even more.
No idea about when and where to find a farmer’s market in Oxfordshire? Our Farmers’ Market Guide 2022 could help.