Big pumpkins - Big business
By Michael Carter
Pumpkins play an important role in Halloween traditions. Jack-o-lanterns are seen across America as a symbol of the October holiday.
What people might not realize is that pumpkins, at least in Ohio, are also big business.
According to the United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, there are more than 4,000 acres of pumpkins planted in the Buckeye state each year.
There are also around 750 pumpkin farms in the state which generate between $900 and $2,160 per acre. That means pumpkins in Ohio are a $3,000,000 to $7,225,000 business depending on harvest and demand.
“This year’s harvest looks to be average,” said Dan Polter of Polterberry Farms in Fremont located in Sandusky County. “We are just getting into our fields, but things look to be OK.
“Numbers are average, but size seems to be good.”
Polter farms 180 acres in Sandusky County, which is the top pumpkin–producing county in the state. Sandusky County farmers plant more than 500 acres of pumpkins each year.
“We will be able to serve all our dealers again this year,” stated Polter.
“We ship most of our pumpkins to New York, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. We ship between 125 and 140 semi truck loads a year. Each semi holds about 52 bins of pumpkins with around 40 pumpkins per bin.”
The word “pumpkin” originated from the Greek word Pepon, which means large melon. Pumpkins and squash are believed to have originated in the ancient Americas.
There are several types of pumpkins and even more varieties, but the most common is the Jack-o-lantern.
In America, a traditional Jack-o-lantern refers to a variety of pumpkin grown for its suitability for carving. They are fairly large in size, have upright strong walls, and most importantly, a large hollow cavity.
Pumpkins are planted in the spring once ground temperatures reach about 60 degrees. They are planted in rows about 6–8 feet apart and about 2–3 feet between plants.
This past growing season was almost picture perfect for pumpkins. Pumpkins like a long, warm growing season and are usually picked in late September or early October. However, the extreme heat this summer also had a negative impact on this year’s harvest.
“The heat did affect our crop,” said Polter. “When it was time for the bees to be out pollinating our crops, they were not able too. Things were way too hot, and the bees had to stay at the hive to keep them cool.”
Pumpkins are used for decorating to eating with several uses in between. With 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins produced in the United States each year, it is one of the most common but unknown fruits.
People use them for cooking pies and also dry out the seeds and eat them. Indians introduced pumpkins to the Pilgrims for this reason. They also stored well making them a valuable food source in the winter. According to the website www.allaboutpumpkinscom, Pilgrims also were known to make pumpkin beer as well.
Pumpkins are even said to be a useful body care product. Woman have been using it as part of exfoliation masks for years.
There are many ideas as to just where the tradition of Jack-o-lanterns at Halloween came from. Early Jack-o-lanterns were carved from turnips and carried in Celtic celebrations.
The English used beets and lumps of lit coal and placed that inside hollow roots of vegetables.
When European settlers arrived in America they found that our American pumpkins were well suited to being carved as a “Jack’s” Lanterns.
In the late 1800s, there was a movement to turn Halloween into a celebration emphasizing community and neighborhood activities.
Michael Carter is the editor of the Clyde Enterprise.