Rogelio Nieto, right, tosses pumpkins to Albert Lopez, left, at Davis Farms. Lopez loads the pumpkins on a conveyor belt where they are sorted. CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle
By Casey Peacock: Freedom Newspapers
Lining fences and decorating yards, pumpkins provide a splash of vivid color to the landscape and are a sure sign that fall has arrived.
Pumpkin harvest is in full swing for Davis Farms in Clovis, where pumpkins have grown for the last 18 years.
Jacqueline Davis said they ship the fruit to four states to be sold at grocery and discount stores.
“We ship to Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi,” said Davis.
This year, she said they grew 75 acres of Magic Lantern pumpkins that are primarily used for carving jack-o-lanterns. The pumpkins will weigh from 15 to 18 pounds each and will be packaged on pallets and cardboard boxes and shipped by semi-truck, according to Davis.
“Ninety-nine percent of our business is jack-o-lantern pumpkins,” she said.
Because of hail storms in the past three years, the Davises were unsuccessful harvesting their pumpkin crops. This year however, has proven to be better with an average crop, said Davis.
“Our crop is really good this year,” she said.
Melrose Fruit Market manager Margie Plummer, who grows two to three acres of pumpkins to sell at the local farmers markets, is singing a slightly different tune. She has been successful in past years with her crop. But this year the weeds took over and the crop had to be plowed under.
Farmers in neighboring Parmer and Bailey counties in Texas have also faced their share of trials and tribulations for this year’s harvest.
Rainfall in August had some effect on the pumpkin crops this year, said Monti Vandiver, Integrated Pest Management Extension Agent for Parmer and Bailey counties.
“The rain caused some of the vines to become disease ridden. Though there was some crop loss, the crops have been good,” said Vandiver. “On a whole, those that managed the disease are good.”
According to Vandiver, farmers are working feverishly to get their pumpkins harvested before the end of October.
“If they wait too long, the crops will lose their market value, especially after Halloween is passed,” said Vandiver.
According to Vandiver, pumpkins are a relatively minor crop in comparison to corn or wheat. If grown right, pumpkins can be a good crop for farmers, he says.
“They’re a very showy crop and can be a very lucrative crop,” said Vandiver.
According to Plummer, pumpkins come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors.
Color of the pumpkins can range from salmon to green to orange, she said. Uses for pumpkins also vary, according to Plummer. Some, like the Gold Rush variety, are used for jack-o-lanterns while the Cinderella variety is used for pumpkin pies and baking.
Pies, bread, muffins and soup are just a few of the things that can be made from pumpkins, said Plummer. But possibly the most unusual use for the fruit is as a feed for cattle. Plummer says that cows just love the orange treat.
The trend of pumpkins is changing from food usage to decorating purposes, says Plummer.
“The majority of people who buy pumpkins for food usage are of the older generation,” Plummer laments. “People should eat pumpkins. They are full of beta-carotene.”