FOR pumpkin farmer Rebecca McEwen, the first week in November means time to breathe a sigh of relief.

Thousands of families visit Arnprior Farm in Stirlingshire to pick their own lantern in the lead up to Halloween, choosing from homegrown pumpkins of every colour, shape and size.

But, as Ms McEwen points out, since this is only one part of the farm’s business, she and husband Duncan – whose family has farmed here since 1936 – have no time to rest on their laurels.

Indeed the McEwens, like most of their peers, are entrepreneurs as well as farmers, always looking for new ways to make the most of their land.

As well as the pumpkin business, the couple, who farm alongside Duncan’s parents, also have 1300 sheep and 200-acres of arable land. Alongside that, they run other visitor attractions including a lambing experience, glamping pods and an eco-friendly indoor swimming pool.

“Modern farms need to be open to diversification,” explains Ms McEwen. “We couldn’t rely solely on the sheep, especially when market and weather conditions are so volatile.

“We are next to a busy road, so it was about trying to come up with something people passing by would want to stop for. There were no other pumpkin farms in the area, although we knew from family in the US how popular they were out there, and we decided to have a go.”

In the five years since Arnprior started growing pumpkins, the popularity of picking has soared, though it takes time to master the art of growing squash.

“We’re still trying to get it right in terms of variety,” says Ms McEwen. “It’s very much a learning experience, not least because seed availability changes all the time and pumpkin is a particular crop that takes time to adapt to Scottish conditions.

“But for me the best thing is seeing so many families on the farm. The pumpkins attract them but while they’re here they find out about so many other aspects of their countryside. They get to roam around with the sheep, take a tractor ride, learn about environmental systems. There’s much more to the visitor experience than just picking a pumpkin."

Farming has always been a family affair for the 37-year-old, who grew on a cattle farm in the south-west of Scotland that her mother Heather – “my inspiration” – has farmed alone since the death of Ms McEwen’s father 23 years ago.

She went into the creative industries after leaving university – working in art direction for theatre and films – and brings that design-led skillset to Arnprior.

“What I enjoy most about being a farmer and an entrepreneur is working with Duncan and pooling our skills,” says the businesswoman, who is mum to three young children. “He’s the ideas person, I’m the one who develops the idea into a visitor attraction.

“Farming gets so much bad press, but inviting people on to the farm, whether it’s through pumpkins, lambing or glamping, is a such lovely way to teach them about our way of life. We’re so passionate about what we do. We’re telling them a story about our farm, the land, that we want them to connect with and take home with them. And we hope they’ll come back next year.”

As for the advice she’d offer to other farmers looking to diversify, Ms McEwen says it’s a matter of location, location, location.

“It’s important to consider every aspect of your business,” she explains. “For example, a pumpkin patch wouldn’t work at my mum’s farm. You have to look at road access and footfall. Also, try not to clash with other businesses.”