Virginia’s pumpkin crop on track for a good year

Posted at 12:00 PM, Oct 06, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-06 14:49:31-04

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 salesof 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.”