The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) announced today that despite a summer of extreme drought and excessive heat, Virginia will have a good pumpkin crop. The value of the crop to the growers is estimated to be around $6 million this year from approximately 3,000 planted acres. The 2010 crop is not quite as good as the 2009, which was excellent, but many individual growers are reporting that they have an excellent crop with good color and a great variety of shapes and colors from which consumers can choose. Some growers say their pumpkins are a bit smaller than last year or that the yield (number of pumpkins per acre) is down somewhat but agree that color and variety are very good.
In addition to the traditional orange jack-o-lantern pumpkins, Virginia growers offer white, blue, green, peachy-tan and striped varieties, as well as gourds, straw, corn fodder, Indian corn and mini pumpkins. Many of Virginia’s pumpkin growers offer something even more exciting: a day on the farm. “Agritourism has grown steadily in importance to our agricultural economy over the past few years,” said Matthew J. Lohr, VDACS Commissioner, “but pumpkins are the stars in many fall festivals and at pick-your-own farms. You don’t just go buy a pumpkin and some Indian corn and get back in the car. You can take a hay ride, navigate your way through a corn maze, pet the farm animals, ride through a haunted forest, tumble down a hill in a tube, roast a hot dog over an open fire or try your hand at Punkin’ Chunkin’, a sport where consumers launch their pumpkins through a cannon or catapult to see whose goes the farthest or has the best hang time.”
Consumers wanting to find a pick-your-own farm to satisfy their pumpkin cravings should start by going to VDACS’ website, www.vdacs.virginia.gov, and clicking on the pumpkin patch icon. Or they may go to www.virginiagrown.com, enter “pumpkins” in the Name/Description/Product search bar, and find eight pages of pumpkin listings. Individual farm’s websites will yield information about festivals, pumpkin events and other activities related to fall’s favorite fruit. If you don’t have time to go to a pumpkin farm or a fall festival, then be sure to ask for Virginia Grown pumpkins at your local retailer, or look for the colorful Virginia Grown banner.