The Peculiar Business of Pumpkins

in Candy Blog

What did Linus say about the Great Pumpkin?

Something like, “each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He's gotta pick this one.”

Since we were kids, pumpkin has been everywhere—on front porches, inside stores, hanging from the walls of classrooms, plastered across billboards—you can’t escape it. 

Which made me wonder, why are all of us carving up pumpkins around Halloween? How come all of the candy companies switch from their standard sizing to pumpkin-shaped everything when the fall rolls around? 

These are the hard-hitting questions—not really, but we like to think so. 

As such, I dove deep into the pumpkin narrative to find out everything—where they grow, how they grow, who’s growing them, what the biggest one is, and why some of them are growing witches' warts. 

Here’s what I found out...

A brief history of pumpkin carving...

Rumor has it that a man named Jack of the Lantern tricked the devil not once, but twice. After his death, he was barred from both heaven and hell—doomed to meander the earth for all eternity, while lit coal, in a hollowed-out turnip, provided his only light.

First off, I’ll be the first to say it, don’t play with the devil—the last thing you want is to get turned into a pumpkin yourself! 

Nonetheless, as this tale was told for generations, Irish and Scottish children would craft their own personal lanterns by carving faces into turnips. By 1800, the practice was brought to the United States where people found it hard to carve into a hard-shelled turnip, so they switched to the next best root vegetable—the pumpkin. 

Ever since, people have been slicing and dicing pumpkins to celebrate Halloween and decorate their homes during the spooky season. 

Pretty simple, right? 

Now, before you can whip out the carving kit and start getting after your pumpkin, you might want to know a little more about where your pumpkin is coming from. 

The logistics of growing the perfect pumpkin...

Here’s the thing—growing gorgeous pumpkins does not come easy–farmers first have to choose from thousands of different seed options every single year. Many growers choose hybrid seeds, a cross between disease-resistant pumpkins and pumpkins that look nice.

These result in some of those wild pumpkins you see when mom used to take you out to the flower shop. Do you remember those ones all covered in warts and shaped like someone smashed them over the top with a baseball bat? Yeah, those kinds of pumpkins.

Most Halloween folk prefer the Jack-o-Lantern (fitting name) because they tend to be cheaper and easier to carve. Good luck if you were planning on carving up one of those white pumpkins with thick skin, your hands are going to thank you later. 

While people are free to choose their prerogative when it comes to pumpkins, one thing is for sure, there is no shortage of buyers.

This year alone, Americans are expected to spend a massive $10B+ on Halloween items. Not only that but among the 65% of Americans celebrating Halloween, 44% of them say they’re definitely going to cut up some pumpkin. 

So how much does it cost to run said pumpkin patches? 

Think of it this way—the more you spend on seed the better your pumpkin will be (for the most part). There are external factors like weather, animals, temperature, that can deeply affect the rate and size of the pumpkins you are growing. Usually, farmers are dropping 3x-5x the standard seed fare, knowing it could increase their yield quality by 30-50%.

We’re just talking about the cost of the pumpkins themselves here. Then you have to factor in a variety of other contributors such as—seeds fertilizer, labor, marketing, and insurance. Experts say the typical overhead incurred by a pumpkin farmer might amount to $3k-$4.5k per acre.

Talk about some serious dough to grow. 

Photo Credit: Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch

Once a farmer has their yield, which is usually 50-75% of the seeds planted, they’ve got one of two choices—sell directly to processing companies using the pumpkin to make filling and other food products, or sell directly to consumers for carving and cooking themselves. 

All in all, depending on the size and stature of the pumpkin, you can make anywhere from $5-50 off a single plump pump. 

Who’s growing the mega pumpkins of the world?

All this pumpkin talk got me curious–who’s out here winning those largest pumpkin competitions? 

Turns out, there’s a few that are in contention for the largest pumpkin in the world. The first comes from an Italian farmer who grew a 2,700 pound pumpkin grand enough to rest a small child on. 

Another man won for his 2,350-pound pumpkin in 2020 at The Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, California—he took home a casual $16k after the big W. 

And this past year, a Washington farmer won for his 2,191-pound beast of a pumpkin that was only 600 hundred pounds shy of winning him $30k. Can you guess how many seeds were inside that thing? Try somewhere between 3-5 thousand seeds. 

Think you can eat all of those? Good luck!

What pumpkin are you picking?

There’s something about the festivities that come with the pumpkin—going to the farm, picking out your perfect one, and carving it up with your personal design is one of those things you never forget, even when you stop trick-or-treating. 

Whether you’re a fan of the smallest, most petite pumpkins or you’re all about the behemoth pumps that produce that premium pie mix, get out there and get yourself a pumpkin this week—I can promise it will trigger the perfect amount of childhood nostalgia you need for this fall season. 

And if you’re in the mood for some pumpkin candy, head over to our aisles and get your hands on the best fall flavor there is!

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