Sean Pendray looks out at his nearly acre-wide pumpkin patch, crammed with more than a dozen varieties of the nearly-ripe vegetables. Growing them is a lot of work- especially for the average teenager’s attention span.
“I don’t advertise that I do this (to my classmates),” the 16-year-old said. “Kids aren’t really in the market.” But over the last five years, he has gained a following among visitors to the Moss Street Market and a roadside stand at Pendray Farms. They come out in droves in late September and October to buy his pumpkins.
He said he can make up to $400 on an average Saturday at the market.
“People will go crazy for them,” said his mother, Cheri Cosby, who helps Sean sell his produce out of a pick-up truck in her front yard on Moss Street.
“They all want a piece of him — they think he’s so fabulous,” she said. He’s become “the pumpkin guy”, a moniker he attributes to his curly red hair.
He also shares his expertise with buyers, telling them how to prepare the pumpkin and offering cooking ideas. Sugar pumpkins are popular at the market, and Sean explains how they are sweeter and denser, perfect for pies.
His love of growing began early, while helping his grandfather, John Pendray, the original owner of Pendray Farms, plant potatoes every spring.
Sean has been tending the patch since he was 11, and each year, his crop has grown. It started out as a small plot of land on his father, Mike Pendray’s farm on Bazan Bay Road. Now he grows between 10 and 15 varieties out of two gardens, as well as five varieties of squash, corn and onions.
“It just kind of felt right,” he said of the work. During the school year, he tries to fit in seed planting when he has less homework, but farm labour is demanding — some school nights he is out in the garden until 10:30 p.m. This summer, he squeezes it in around his first summer job as a labourer at Slegg Lumber on Mills Road in Sidney.
Two friends, Ryan Trelford and James Petch have helped with planting, but Sean does most of the work on his own.
“For him, it’s really a labour of love,” Cosby said.
Now fall is coming, and several of the pumpkins and squash are beginning to die off, leaving room for others to ripen. He plans to leave the ripe ones until the main harvest in late September, when he’ll begin his trek to the market again.
All of his earnings, save for what he uses for seeds and other farm costs, have gone into savings for school.
Not many teens his age have their own crops, and Cosby wishes more would learn the value of growing their own food.
“More kids need to be doing this.”