2012 PRESS RELEASES
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October 5, 2012
SIZE, COLOR, VARIETIES – IT’S ALL GOOD WITH VIRGINIA PUMPKINS THIS YEAR
Contact: Elaine J. Lidholm, 804.786.7686
According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), the state’s 2012 pumpkin crop looks very good. “The traditional orange jack-o-lantern pumpkins are the biggest I’ve ever seen,” said Kevin Semones, with the Virginia Pumpkin Growers Association, “and we’ve had great sales of specialty pumpkins.” Most of the wholesale pumpkins are gone now from southwest Virginia, the center of the state’s commercial pumpkin industry. The good news is, they are currently arriving at retail outlets throughout the state and the region, or consumers can find them at scores of pick-your-own farms.
“Virginia’s wholesale crop on average was very good this year,” said Semones, “although there were some pockets in the state where drought took its toll.” He says Virginia generally fared much better than many surrounding states or in the Midwest where pumpkins are in short supply.
Virginia has approximately 3,000 acres total of pumpkins, gourds, squash and other Halloween-related items. With about 1,760 pumpkins per acre for the 10-inch diameter size and up, the state produces around 5.3 million of the larger pumpkins for market each year, plus thousands of pounds more of smaller pumpkins and gourds.
Patsy Kline, Gladiator, Magic Lantern and Aladdin are the most popular varieties of the traditional orange pumpkins. Popular specialty pumpkins include colors such as white, green, a light orange almost like a creamsicle and even pale pink. Warty pumpkins, striped ones and bi-colors are also selling well. Apple gourds, swan gourds, mini pumpkins and mini gourds are very popular, too. Names of specialty pumpkins can be descriptive, like the peanut pumpkin that looks as though someone pressed in-shell peanuts into the pumpkin’s skin. Others are much more fanciful: Cinderella, Turk’s Turban, Lunch Lady, Bunch of Warts, Porcelain Doll or Long Island Cheese. The smaller pie pumpkins remain popular for school tours and other groups.
Pumpkins are a growing trend among Virginia farmers as more growers begin to enter the direct sales market and to get involved with festivals. They sell directly to the public on the farm, at farmers’ markets and to restaurants. “This is popular with both farmers and the public,” said Matt Lohr, VDACS’ Commissioner. “Growers love it because they are selling at retail instead of wholesale and get to keep more of their production dollars, and consumers enjoy the interaction with the farmers.”
Farmers who grow corn, wheat, soybeans or other major crops often plant a few acres of pumpkins to diversify their operations and generate extra income. At these farms, people may come to pick their own pumpkins, but they go away with much more, the experience of a day on the farm. They can navigate the corn maze, drive the pedal cars through the fields, lob small fruit through the pumpkin cannon, pet the animals, roast hot dogs, enjoy a hay ride, shell their own popcorn or mine gems, to name just a few features of pick-your-own pumpkin farms.
Consumers looking for pick-your-own farms should go to VirginiaGrown.com and search by location – county or zip code. They can also go the website of the Virginia Pumpkin Growers Association. With one click on the pumpkin button on the VDACS’ homepage, they will find farms, festivals, recipes and other pumpkin-related information.
When buying pumpkins, consumers should look for good color, a nice handle on the top (the stem) and no soft spots. For those who don’t carve their pumpkins at Halloween, the pumpkins should last through Thanksgiving as a fall decoration.