Pa's Butternut Pumpkins

Meet Pa (Peter Conrick) and his family, who have been stewards of Willaba Farm since 1981. Acquiring the 540-hectare property in Murbko from a retiring farmer, they’ve upheld a tradition of mixed farming, cultivating wheat, wool, and dried apricots.

In 2023, challenges from Mother Nature arose. Scarce rainfall and warm winters thwarted their wheat and apricot harvests. But innovation runs deep in the Conrick family. Grandson Will, at 22, suggested growing pumpkins to offset losses. Not originally equipped for pumpkin farming, they swiftly adapted and embraced the new venture.

Pa (Peter Conrick) said, “We weren’t set up for growing pumpkins but it was a great idea so we installed a drip irrigation system, bought the seeds and prepared the soil for planting. Early November the seeds went into the moist ground alongside a dripper. Some lovely warm days soon had the seedlings poking their leaves above the ground. Mother Nature showed her head again to check how things were going. Our annual rainfall is normally just over 200 mm and we had only had half, 100 mm. Mother Nature decided to catch us up, sending 75 ml in a three-hour period. The little two-leaf pumpkin plants could not handle such heavy rain and over half of the plants were washed away. Luckily we still had some seeds left over so replanted where the plants were missing. The rain produced a fine crop of weeds that had to be removed by hand. With a couple of hours in the pumpkin patch every day the battle of the weeds was eventually won.”

Despite setbacks, they persevered, replanting and battling weeds by hand as they don’t use sprays on the irrigated parts of the farm and now they have a crop of butternut pumpkins ready to sell seasonally at the market.

The Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market was the natural choice for them. As keen market-goers themselves, they preferred to sell directly to customers who appreciate knowing where their food comes from, avoiding middlemen and dishonest customers at roadside stalls.

The Conrick family, consisting of Pa (Peter), Jill, daughter Rebecca, and grandson Will, bring Pa’s Pumpkins seasonally and made their market debut on the 19th May 2024, followed by a return on 2nd June.

Customers visiting their stall have access via a QR code to Maggie Beer Farm Shop’s website for favourite pumpkin recipes. The pumpkins, ripe and ready to sell, will be presented on a restored 130-year-old market barrow from the Adelaide East-end Market.