Did you know that the United States produces 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin each year? That’s more than double the weight of the Empire State Building. According to Guinness World Records, the world’s heaviest pumpkin was grown in 2014 by Beni Meier in Switzerland. It weighed 2,323 lbs- about the same as an adult polar bear.
The top pumpkin-producing states are Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California, but Keene, New Hampshire holds the record for most lit jack’o’lanterns on display- over 30,581 and still growing.
The unsung heroes of all this Fall festivity are the farmers who produce the pumpkins (and squash and gourds) that adorn our tables and spruce up our porches. Pumpkins take up a lot of space- their vines can grow to more than 20 feet! Adam Voll, farm manager of Soergels Orchard in Wexford, Pa., discusses his special technique for planting larger fields of pumpkins in terms of the 23 acres that he manages for HobbyFarms.com:
“We’ve been experimenting a little with this- typically, we’ve plowed and worked the ground into a fine seed bed. We still do a lot of that, but I’ve started doing more strip tilling. I have a machine that uses a sub-soil tooth, and then with a few disks and a rolling basket, I get a great seed bed in one pass. It saves time and is reducing the erosion and helping the soil. I will typically do this in a rye field or an old hay field so that the organic matter on top then helps with erosion and keeps the weeds down. We’ve also planted some on plastic. We use trickle irrigation under the plastic and have gotten great results.”
There are five main varieties of pumpkins that are available in-season, usually starting around the end of September: miniature pumpkins, carving pumpkins, giant pumpkins, pie pumpkins, and colorful pumpkins. With Halloween and Thanksgiving quickly approaching, use a resource such as Pumpkin Patches & More to find a local pumpkin patch where you can go pick out some choice gourds. While you’re there, take a minute to thank the people that make this Fall tradition possible!