Appropriately named ‘Phat Jacks’, a variety of pumpkins which are the largest jack-o-lanterns types available, are responsible for creating a steady stream of traffic up Walkers Line to Hutchinson Farm in Burlington.
Halloween is just around the corner and every child in the city is eager to select the pick off the crop, carve out a funny face and put it at the front door to great trick-and-treaters.
David MacTavish, who operates the farm which offers 60 varieties of pumpkins, said sales also soar just before Thanksgiving
However, it’s not like days gone by when grandma would bake a plethora of pies.
“Women use them almost exclusively for decorative purposes,” MacTavish said.
Hutchinson’s also has been growing produce to feed Burlington families for more than 40 years. Founder John Hutchinson died suddenly last year at the age of 88 doing what he loves, checking out the crops on his bicycle.
The Hutchinson family had sold a huge chunk of land they owned in Oakville, which extended from Lake Ontario north to the QEW. The Ford Motor plant now is located there.
Hutchinson, who had worked on a farm since the age of 13, moved to Burlington where he grew strawberries, tomatoes, pumpkins and flowers, initially wholesaling some of it to the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto.
Now MacTavish, who is his step-son, operates the farm and produce is sold only on a retail basis.
“It’s been 25 years since we wholesaled anything,” said MacTavish. “Now people can come here to our stand, they know the produce was grown here and if they have any questions they can ask.”
Hutchinson’s, which also sells weekly at the Burlington Mall Farmers Market, once was famous for pick-your-own strawberries. But like many farms it has discontinued picking by the public, mainly because of changing lifestyles.
“Conversely we are selling more and more picked strawberries,” MacTavish said.
Senator Betty Kennedy, a longtime CFRB radio personality, used to be MacTavish’s neighbor and came to the farm regularly to purchase red geraniums.
MacTavish is a farmer, only by chance, but he says he really enjoys it. He grew up in the Yonge-Eglinton area of Toronto and graduated from the University of Toronto with a music degree, one he has never used.
When his mother married John Hutchinson he became interested in farming.
Burlington has a longstanding tradition of farming. Its rural area stretches from Dundas St. all the way north to Derry Road and is about the same size as the city’s urban area. Burlington’s crest features a bright red apple.
Up until 1994 Burlington had a farm right in the middle of the city. It was located on 32 acres of land on New St. between Guelph Line and Walkers Line and operated by Stew Cockshutt, who trained harness racing horses on a track there. Today the same land is occupied by the Roseland Green housing development.
He raised horses in partnership with Carmen Hie, one of Ontario’s best drivers. Some of Cockshutt’s horses have become Canadian champions. In 2011 a filly named China Pearls was named Trotter of the Year.
The land on which the Burlington Mall was built was once part of a huge 200-acre farm operated by Peter Fisher. Market gardens used to fill the area along Plains Road and Maple Avenue, and Burlington was said to produce some of the best cantelopes in the country
The book ‘Vanished Burlington’, by Gary Evans, says Burlington area farmers won prizes for their produce in the 1896 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Burlington once had its own agricultural Fall Fair. It included a rolling pin throwing contest, which was open to married ladies who might have had some practice when their husbands came home late from the pub!
It offered prizes of $3 for first place, $2 for second and $1 for third.
The fair had no permanent grounds. The first one was held in the old village of Nelson, at the intersection of Guelph Line and Hwy. 5. It later moved south to land on Brant St., just south of what was then the Grand Trunk Railway crossing. Finally, organizers decided to hold it near what is today Queensway Dr.
Operating the fair annually proved too costly, though, and volunteers became totally discouraged in June of 1930 when, believe it or not, Burlington town council rejected a request for a grant of $200, which today wouldn’t buy a meal for four at a steak house. Some councillors doubted that the fair was any benefit to the community.
The fair finally folded for good in 1933.
Written By DENIS GIBBONS