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Published: Wednesday, 10/13/2010

Pumpkins aplenty to pick as Halloween approaches

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

"We got wiped out this weekend," said Trisha Truman of Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon. "It's a beautiful crop this year - not too big, not too small, just right."

Fleitz Pumpkin Farm has replenished its supply for the rest of the season and still has plenty of pumpkins available, Ms. Truman said.

Overall, this year's Ohio pumpkin crop is pretty average in almost every respect, said Bob Precheur, an authority on pumpkins with the Ohio State University extension service.

"There are plenty of pumpkins around," Mr. Precheur said. "The size is down a little bit because of the heat and the dryness we've had, but prices are about average this year."

Average selling prices are around $5 for a 10-pound, basketball-sized pumpkin, but prices overall range from 50 cents to $10 locally.

Pumpkins represent Ohio's third largest market crop by acreage - behind only sweet corn and tomatoes, Mr. Precheur said. Each acre of pumpkins produces between 15 and 20 tons of gourds.

Last year Ohio growers harvested 7,500 acres of pumpkins, an increase of 1,400 acres from 2008. Total production was 1.24 million hundred weights of pumpkins, up 32.9 percent from 2008.

Overall, Ohio production totaled 13.3 percent of the U.S. pumpkin crop.

Abbey Glancey lugs the pumpkin she has determined the perfect choice for Halloween. Abbey Glancey lugs the pumpkin she has determined the perfect choice for Halloween.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Mr. Precheur said pumpkins can represent as much as 10 to 40 percent of a farmer's annual gross income in Ohio, even though the vast majority of pumpkins grown in the state are ornamental, and not turned into things like pie filling.

Most pumpkins used for pie filling are a variety grown mostly in Illinois, Mr. Precheur said.

Pumpkins are nature's blank canvas of a fruit, with far more pumpkins sold for decoration than for food. They can provide a nice income for those farms who dedicate a portion of their land to growing them, although they also require a lot of work.

"We started growing pumpkins 20 years ago when our boys were little. It was a little-boy project that's turned into a big-boy project," said Dan Gust, who operates Gust Brothers Pumpkin Farm in Ottawa Lake, Mich., just north of Sylvania.

Mr. Gust's four sons, now aged 27 to 20, all chip in each fall by helping to harvest the approximately 600,000 pounds of pumpkins the farm grows each fall across its 20-acre pumpkin patch. They then share in the fruits of their labors.

"There's a lot of work on a pumpkin farm, but that way they can get a little income from it too," Mr. Gust said.

"I don't think people are spending quite as much as they used to [on pumpkins], but we seem to be getting more people. This is good, cheap entertainment out here," said Mr. Gust, who shows off his livestock and provides visitors with hay rides during their visit. "It's more of a day on the farm than just buying a pumpkin."

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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