It’s Pumpkin Season

Gourd in abundance this year

Pumpkins fill are seen filling a trailer Thursday afternoon at Brower Family Farm, 249 Jackson Summit Road, Mayfield. (The Leader-Herald/Josh Bovee)

As skies continue to darken and the trees around town shed their leaves upon sleepy streets as the autumn season makes its way towards Halloween, a fun and familiar houseguest has quietly populated the stoops of homes, adding a festive flare to the season. Pumpkins big and small, some in their original form and others aglow with twisted smirks and grimacing eyes, define autumn like nothing else while also offering a boon to farmers, as the bright and bulbous crop grows in abundance throughout the area.

“We grow probably 15 different kinds of pumpkins” Emily Bowles of Sand Flats Orchard in Fonda said Thursday. “[Many of them] look the same, but they’re slightly different — and it allows you some disease resistance to do a mix. We do Fat Jacks, Gold Medals, Warty Goblins and several other types — mostly jack-o’-lantern varieties. We also grow pie pumpkins and tons of squashes.”

Bowles said that in addition to apples, pumpkins are one of Sand Flat Orchard’s primary crops, with roughly 10 acres dedicated to the decorative fruits, and that this year’s harvest has been a success.

“Pumpkins were very happy this year,” Bowles said. “It’s been a great year for everything, really. A lot of farms had difficulty in the spring because it was real wet and it just made for a real hard time for most farmers. However, we’re on sand, so we didn’t have this trouble with a lot of rainfall so we were very lucky. We did get all the rain that we needed to keep everything going and we were able to get our pumpkins in the ground in time.”

Matt Brower of Brower Family Farm in Mayfield echoed those sentiments on the growing season.

Pie pumpkins for sale at Brower Family Farm, 249 Jackson Summit Road, Mayfield, are shown Thursday afternoon. (The Leader-Herald/Josh Bovee)

“We ended up with a really good crop of pumpkins this year. We we’re real happy with the way things turned out,” Brower said. “We were a little afraid with some of the dry weather during the summer that they might not do as well, but they actually did really nice.”

Brower said that the farm grows roughly two acres worth of pumpkins in all different shapes and sizes, including miniatures, pie pumpkins, carving pumpkins and others which he describes as “odd-ball” varieties based on their unusual shapes, colors and textures.

“We had probably a couple of acres every year,” Brower said. “Some will be taller and more cylindrical, while others are shorter and rounder. We’ve got pie pumpkins and we also do mini pumpkins here too because they’re pretty popular. We get a lot of requests for those for like charitable fundraisers, people looking for a donation or to purchase them at a discount for kids to paint and so on.”

“The other thing that’s been kind of popular is the odd-ball pumpkins — these kind of funny shapes and colors and the warty, bumpy pumpkins,” Brower continued. “We’ve been kind of trying every year to make sure that we have some of those to just kind of meet the demand. They’re just different shapes and sizes and different varieties that causes them to look different.”

While neither Sand Flats Orchard nor Brower Family Farm are actively involved in growing giant pumpkins, both Bowles and Brower noted that contest-winning pumpkins can weigh well over 1,000 pounds and that on occasion they will plant a few seeds from a giant pumpkin, just to see what will come of it.

The Leader-Herald/Josh Bovee Rain washes the pumpkins that are for sale at Sand Flats Orchard, 371 Martin Road in Fonda on Thursday. (The Leader-Herald/Josh Bovee)

“We don’t necessarily put a lot of effort into trying to make them massive like they do for the contests, but sometimes we’ll throw a few seeds in and see what we get,” Brower said.

“We don’t personally [grow giant pumpkins],” Bowles said. “We have grown the larger pumpkin varieties but we don’t spend enough time to make it worth while. We have a neighbor/friend named Jed Saltsman who does a fantastic job and in years past he will bring us one of his giant pumpkins. They’re usually thousand-pounders.”

Bowles noted that prior to the rise in popularity pumpkins as a decorative item, they were used primarily as a food source. However, as the American lifestyle became easier for many, the less tasty varieties of pumpkin shifted from a source of winter nourishment to a source of festive fun now associated with fall and Halloween.

“Americans today live a lifestyle where luckily most of us are not starving, so all these things that grew out of necessity for our previous generations are now just a festival thing,” Bowles said. “This is the time of year where people get in the last of their canning. And pumpkins are something that keep a long time. So while people are busy canning, they can just leave their pumpkins on their stoop and get to them later because they won’t rot. And I think that’s just kind of turned into a fall staple.”

Farms throughout the region have benefited from the festive nature of fall, not only by selling countless pumpkins but by getting in on festivities themselves. Family members of Brower Family Farm recently participated in a jack-o’-lantern carving competition and members of the public can go on Facebook to vote on their favorite.

Jack-o-lanterns carved by workers at Sand Flats Orchard, 371 Martin Road in Fonda, sit upon a hay bale in the rain Thursday morning. (The Leader-Herald/Josh Bovee)

Sand Flats Orchard employees also participated in a pumpkin carving night. The orchard also offers hay rides, a corn maze, and late-season apple picking, with their special Evercrisp variety still ripening on trees.

But its main Halloween event this year is the second annual Not-So-Haunted Hayride and Pumpkin Party, which will take place Friday, Oct. 25 starting at 5 p.m.

“We gear [the event] towards the three to eight year old crowd — younger kids and younger families. We do a hay ride just as it’s starting to get dark and we put some lights on the hay ride and make it a little bit different from the normal one,” Bowles said. “We invite everybody to bring a pumpkin that they’ve carved already, and we set those out and put some lights in them. And then when we get back from the hay ride, people vote for their favorite pumpkin and we have some prizes, and then we get a projector and we project ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown’ and we watch the movie together. Last year we had some kettle corn going, and cider and donuts, of course that’s a given.”

Bowles said this year Sand Flats Orchard is selling 100 tickets to the event and is encouraging people to purchase tickets in advance.

Tickets can be purchased for at the orchard for $10 in advance and $12 on the night of the event until they are sold out.

Jack-o-lanterns carved by workers at Sand Flats Orchard, 371 Martin Rd in Fonda, are seen on display Thursday morning. (The Leader-Herald/Josh Bovee)

For more information on Sand Flats Orchard visit www.facebook.com/SandFlatsOrchardandGreenhouse.

For more information on Brower Family Farm visit, www.facebook.com/Brower-Family-Farm-73831660950/?rf=146772925442221.

Pumpkins of all varieties, including these odd-balls and oddities, were on sale at Brower Family Farm, 249 Jackson Summit Rd., Mayfield, Thursday afternoon. (The Leader-Herald/Josh Bovee)

The Leader-Herald/Josh Bovee Rain washes the pumpkins that are for sale at Sand Flats Orchard, 371 Martin Rd in Fonda on Thursday.

The Leader-Herald/Josh Bovee Little decorative pumpkins for sale at Brower Family Farm, 249 Jackson Summit Rd., Mayfield, are shown Thursday afternoon.