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I’ve been racking up the miles at work this month. I have been all over northeastern Ohio, stretching down into central eastern Ohio, and westward into north central Ohio. I love to see the different farming operations and old barns. I enjoy seeing the ripening crops and compare them to the fields around home. But there was something that caught my eye in Coshocton County: Pumpkins being harvested.
I had passed several large fields of pumpkins before I came across a crew harvesting. Several workers were walking through the field behind what looked like a piece of farm equipment retro fitted with a conveyor attached to the front. The conveyor was the right height for the workers to place the pumpkins on, who then carried them to a wagon that was being pulled by a tractor alongside. To me, it looked like the old New Holland self-propelled haybine that my dad had when I was little, but the mower head was replaced with the conveyor. What I do know for sure is, if I had to pick all of those pumpkins, I would be thankful for the conveyor’s help.
I wish I could have stopped and watched them for a while, but it did make me wonder how many pumpkins are grown in the United States. According to the 2020 agricultural statistics from the USDA, 66,200 acres were dedicated to pumpkins, which yielded 1.5 billion pounds. That’s more than 2 billion pumpkins!
The top pumpkin producing states are Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Michigan, California, Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia. There are lot of shuffling in the order of these states from year to year except for Illinois, which is always the top producing state.
Illinois’ 2020 crop consisted of 10,900 acres, averaging 40,000 pounds per acre. Yep, that was 436 million pounds of pumpkins. Illinois has a great climate to grow pumpkins as well as the right soil types, but the high yield per acre is largely due to the fact that 80% of the pumpkins grown in Illinois are devoted to pie filling or other processed uses.
Cucurbita is the scientific name for the squash family to which pumpkins belong. There are a lot of different types within that plant family. Pumpkins grown for fall decoration are not the same as the ones grown for processing. You can process and eat a jack-o’-lantern, but nature has provided a better way. Processing pumpkins are an elongated, tan fruit that have a pale flesh that is “meatier” than carving pumpkins. They are also packed with antioxidants, fiber and vitamin A.
According to the statistics from USDA, Ohio contributed its fair share of the 2020 pumpkin crop by planting and harvesting 3,600 acres. Ohio pumpkins are raised for our enjoyment at the many local farm markets across Ohio. I would like to highlight a couple of Trumbull County Farm Bureau members that have advertised in the “Buying Local Directory.” Both do a great job of sharing their passion for fall and provide a lot of family fun. The first is Hartford Orchards LLC on Wilson Sharpsville Road in Hartford. The second is Kuchta Farms in Braceville on state Route 82. Check them out to see what they have to offer.
I hope you enjoy some pumpkin fun this fall and please remember to be watchful in your travels for farm equipment that will be sharing the road as harvest is nearly upon us!
Submitted by Mary Smallsreed, a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.
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