Bumper pumpkin crop for farmers
By Mike Danahey email@example.com @DanaheyECN on Twitter October 5, 2013 10:16PM
Pumpkins are big business for Illinois farmers, as this state produces the most of any state for both pie and canning varieties and decorative types. The Goebbert family offers example of a business that draws customers with its fall produce and activities for family fun. Amelia Patino, 2, looks for her pumpkin. | Joe Cyganowski-For Sun-Times Media
Pumpkins and more
Following are some area pumpkin farms. Visit www.bountyofkane.org for a full list of direct farm markets and farmer’s markets in Kane County, along with an interactive map.
Norton Farm, 39W389 Route 64, St. Charles, 630-377-8118. Pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn and corn bundles.
Kuipers Family Farm, 01N145 Watson Road, Maple Park, 815-827-5200. Family u-pick apples, pumpkins, kids’ activities, corn maze and more.
Enjoy Pioneer Farm, 17N400 Big Timber Road, Hampshire, 847-683-2863. Pumpkins, broom corn, corn stalks, Indian corn, straw, gourds, squash and petting zoo.
Gould Cider Mill, 2S230 Green Road, Elburn, 630-365-2233. Fresh cider, apples, pumpkins, squash gourds, honey, u-pick apples.
Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch, Route 47 and Reinking Road, Hampshire, 847-464-5952. Pick your own pumpkin, petting zoo, pony rides, corn maze and more.
The Pumpkin Wagon, 12N860 Route 20, Elgin, 847-697-2538. Pumpkins, squash, straw.
Pine Apple Acres, 41W651 Powers Road, Huntley, 847-669-3251. Apples, orchard, and u pick.
Ben’s Giant Pumpkins and Farm Market, 43W200 Jericho Road, Sugar Grove, 630-466-1331. Pumpkins and fall ornamentals.
Numerous other direct farm markets offer pumpkins for Jack-O-Lanterns, squash, Indian corn, and other fall harvest decorations. Among those Kane County Farm Bureau members in the Bounty of Kane directory are:
Klein’s Farm & Garden Market, Elgin and Udina, 847-683-9647
Randy’s Vegetables, Elgin, 847-428-5244
Wiltse Farm Produce & Greenhouse, Maple Park, 815-739-2573
Windy Acres Farm, Geneva, 630-232-6429
Heinz Bros. Greenhouse, St. Charles, 630-377-6288
Updated: October 5, 2013 10:28PM
If what is being seen on area farms is any indication, this fall potentially holds another record pumpkin harvest for Illinois. And if good weather sticks around, particularly on weekends, such local farmers will reap extra benefits from their yields.
“The harvest has been wonderful. It’s been one of our better years,” Terry Goebbert of Hampshire said.
The Goebbert family has been growing pumpkins since the 1950s and sells them and other produce at locations in Hampshire and South Barrington. This year, the operation grew 42 acres of pumpkins, about 80 percent of them decorative or jack-o’-lantern varieties and 20 percent types more suitable for making pies or canning.
“It’s not just perfect-looking pumpkins,” Goebbert said. “There’s a lot of personal preference. Some people like knotty, or crooked, or flat.”
Whatever the shape, “Illinois is the number one pumpkin-producing state in the United States,” University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Ron Wolford stated in a press release. “In 2012, Illinois pumpkin farmers produced an estimated 623 million pounds of pumpkins.”
The Illinois Farm Bureau Partners Magazine Fall 2013 edition states that in 2012 the Land of Lincoln produced more than twice as many pumpkins as second-place California. It points to statistics from the Illinois Agricultural Statistics Service that show Illinois farmers harvested a record 16,200 acres of pumpkins last year, with most of those grown for cooking and canning.
The article claims that what is building demand is a growing taste for pumpkin-flavored goodies of all sorts and consumer awareness of the health benefits of eating pumpkin. It notes that pumpkin processing was established in the state in the 1920s. With a Libby’s plant and a Seneca Foods plant both not far from Peoria, Illinois farms now grow about 90 percent of the nation’s canning pumpkins.
Interviews with area farmers show, though, that most of the pumpkins grown in these parts are of the decorative and jack-o’-lantern types.
Wade Kuipers said his family’s farm in rural Maple Park has been growing pumpkins since 1998, and this year planted 15 acres of jack-o’-lantern pumpkins, 5 acres of pie types, and 5 acres of decorative types.
“It’s been a phenomenal crop this year,” Kuipers said.
Local farmers, including Kuipers, noted that while early spring was wet, the dry weather in late summer is what helped grow this years yield — and that last year’s record-setting hot, dry weather is what led to the 2012 bumper crop.
Kuipers said that a consumer trend is for decorative pumpkins beyond those carved for Halloween. These days, pumpkins being sold come in colors including not only a bright orange Cinderella variety, but also blues, reds, and even shades of pink.
Kuipers said his farm is donating money from selling the latter to breast cancer research organizations.
And prices customers see this year should be about the same as last fall.
“Pumpkins are not like a commodity. We’ve been selling ours for the same prices for the last 10 years,” Kuipers said.
As a traditional seasonal cornucopia demonstrates, the ornamental use of fall produce also includes other gourds and squashes — and which are a specialty of The Pumpkin Wagon, along Route 20 in unincorporated Elgin
Wayne Gehrke and his twin sister Carolyn, now 23 — whose family has been farming in the area since the 1800s — are in their 12th season offering such items, which they grow on two acres of local land.
“We were looking for a nontraditional summer job,” Gehrke said.
“Demand is always going up. Every year we are doing better. A lot of people enjoy picking out their produce and visiting a place like ours. It’s agritourism.”
Customers up, too
Such farms also offer an opportunity for school children to learn how plants grow. That’s the case at the Norton Farm in rural St. Charles, where Ben Norton said his mother, Caryl, run field trips for preschool and kindergarten students that teach them about how their pumpkins came to be.
Norton said his family started farming pumpkins 22 years ago, after doing others sorts of agriculture, then running a feed and grain store. This year, the Nortons planted 30 acres of pumpkins, about 80 percent of which are for jack-o’-lanterns or other decorative types.
“It’s been a very, very good harvest, and there should be plenty of pumpkins around, and more people seem to be using them for decorating,” Norton said.
Local farmers also noted that recent sunny days have helped bring in customers to their businesses, building sales for them. Several, in fact, offer all sorts of farm bells and whistles do draw visitors.
“There’s a whole entertainment end of what we have for the fall season, including tractor rides, cider, donuts and our fall festival,” Goebbert said.
Kuipers mentioned his family farm’s experience includes not only picking out a pumpkin that’s been grown locally and harvested weekly, but also pig races and a corn maze.
Randy’s Vegetables along Randall Road in Sleepy Hollow is another popular area location, offering train rides and face painting along with other amusements, food, donuts, cider, and pumpkins.
The farmers said the pumpkin end of their business comes to a peak the last two or three weeks of the month in advance of Oct. 31 and Halloween. As with their crops growing, for such operations to thrive, Goebbert stated, “It’s all about the weather.”