How They Met: The queen and king of Ontario’s most popular pumpkin patch

Darlene Downey and Nathan Gorr, owners of Downey’s Farm, know a thing or two about Halloween. A fourth-generation family farm, they’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of Pumpkinfest this year. Ontarians swarm to the farm every year to see thousands of pumpkins, explore the Boo Barn and puzzle through a corn maze. Now, the pair share the details of their royal connection and very Canadian proposal.

How they met

We met in Toronto through my high school best friend, who went to the same university as Nathan. I was crowned Queen of the Furrow as part of the International Ploughing Match in Nathan’s hometown, which was a funny coincidence and our friend thought we would be perfect together. 

The first date

Our first date was at Main Street train station in Bolton on a Thursday night. Nathan was living in Toronto and I was living here at the farm in Caledon. He was working horse shows in Palgrave, so he came up early and we met for a drink. It must have gone well because on Sunday he  visited me at the golf course I was working at.  The following weekend, I invited him to my brother’s 30th birthday, but I didn’t tell him who was going to be there — my entire family! For me, that was the night where I thought, “Oh, I think I’m going to marry this guy.”

Prior to us dating, Nathan had accepted a job in Australia. It started just two and a half months after we started dating, so we were pretty inseparable leading up to it and then decided to make long distance work.  

The farm

Darlene: My parents were dairy farmers growing up, and we sold corn on a picnic table in front of our house. And then 30 years ago, we made the jump to a pumpkin farm, sold our cows and every year we grew a little bit more. Three years ago, Nathan and I purchased the company from my parents, and they’re still involved. 

Nathan: I didn’t originally come from a farming background. I was a mechanical engineer, so obviously it was a gamble to move to Downey’s Farm.

Darlene: His parents thought he was crazy giving up a nine-to-five for this! 

The proposal

Our family used to host a yearly curling bonspiel. Nathan came up with a plan and included my three brothers. They set up a draw to the button between my dad and brothers and asked me to be the judge.  Nathan was acting super weird all day! There were over 100 of our family and friends watching and as my dad threw his rock, Nathan got down on one knee on the ice and proposed. A very Canadian proposal!

The wedding and honeymoon

We got married Sept. 11, 2010, at the farm, a beautiful fall wedding! Because we were coming into our busiest season, we took a three-day honeymoon to Tremblant. We later took a babymoon to Hawaii.

The kids

We have four kids: 11-year-old twins — a boy and a girl — a nine-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son.  

Balancing careers and marriage

Because we live where we work — at Downey’s Farm — it is hard to separate work and life, but we’ve gotten better! We have found that booking getaways both with the family and just the two of us really helps. We used to feel really guilty about leaving or not working seven days a week, but it makes us better employers, parents and partners to spend time together outside our business.

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