At last, it’s here—pumpkin season.
You’ve waited all year long to grab hold of one or many of the popular orange orbs that greet trick-or-treaters, decorate homes and taste especially good in spiced lattes.
You’re not alone. Statistics show that Pennsylvania loves its pumpkins. In 2014, it ranked as the third-highest U.S. state in pumpkin production, rolling out a weighty total of 105 million pounds, according to the USDA Economic Research Service.
Depending on the variety, you might put pumpkin in pies, breads or beer or just set it out on the stoop as a good, old-fashioned jack-o’-lantern. Its seeds and flowers also are consumed.
And did I mention spiced lattes?
Jon Strite, of Strites Orchard Farm Market and Bakery in Lower Swatara Township, said his farm sells 20 varieties of pumpkins. The large-face pumpkins used for jack-o’-lanterns are “harder” than the sweeter, fleshier varieties that are used for cooking, he said.
Strite, who runs the fourth-generation family business with his brother and cousin, said they plant eight acres of pumpkins each year, yielding around 28,000 gourds. The biggest growing challenges are “mold, deer and groundhogs,” but this year’s hot, dry summer provided favorable growing conditions, he noted. Too much moisture creates mold.
Greg Forry, of Risser-Marvel Farm Market and Corn Maze in Annville, said he favors funny-looking gourds called neck pumpkins, as well as butternut squash, for cooking. And, like Strite, he cites volatile weather as the biggest challenge.
“You need moisture for growing pumpkins, but not too much moisture,” he said. “Pumpkins can deteriorate fast if it’s too wet. Downy mildew is a big one.”
Forry, who’s in the business with wife Tina, said they plant seven acres of pumpkins annually, with the last harvest in early November.
Amy Paulus, of Paulus Farm Market in Upper Allen Township, echoed similar concerns about weather and moisture affecting pumpkin growth.
“We have no control over the weather,” she said. “We’re at its mercy.”
Paulus, who helps run the market and Paulus Orchards in Dillsburg, said they plant around 30 acres of pumpkins each year.
Despite the challenges, area pumpkin farmers agree that being in the business can be just plain fun, too. Risser-Marvel offers a pick-your-own patch, a Robin Hood-themed corn maze, campfires and hayrides. “Farmer Greg” Forry also leads school tours.
“The kids just love it,” Tina Forry said. “It’s good to see families having a good time. It’s good to see them having fun with no electronics involved.”
Amy Paulus, a former English instructor at Boiling Springs Middle School, now uses her teaching skills at the produce business that her husband “built from the ground up” after graduating from high school 25 years ago, she said. Paulus Farm Market offers a seasonal “Fall Funfort,” corn maze, hayrides, a u-pick pumpkin patch, farm animals and a unique “Harvest Hiccup” hydraulic cannon that’s perfect for “pumpkin chunkin.” It also offers school tours and birthday parties
“I love teaching,” Paulus said. “I love our school tours and anyone else who is interested. We love having families come out and visit. This is a family-run business, and we really embrace the community.”
Strites offers a corn maze and a u-pick pumpkin patch each fall for family fun.
“Saturday is always our busiest day,” Jon Strite said. “Sometimes, we get 100 cars in the parking lot for u-pick. It gets to be a family tradition for people.”
Strites also runs an in-house bakery that sells a variety of pies, breads, cookies and donuts made with fresh fruit, as well as its own apple cider, baking mixes, jams and jellies.
Although fall harvest is his favorite time of year, Strite added that it can seem “bittersweet.”
“Harvesting always reminds me that it’s the end of the fall season,” he said with a sigh.
For more information, including activities and hours, visit Paulus Farm Market at www.paulusfarmmarket.com, Risser-Marvel Farm Market at www.rissermarvel.com and Strites Orchard at www.stritesorchard.com.
If you like harvesting your own pumpkins, this is the season for you. Our area teems with pick-your-own places, including the following 20 farms.
K & J Farm Market, 4 Irishtown Rd., Hanover;
Mt. Joy Berry Farm, 351 Speelman-Klinger Rd., Gettysburg;
Swartz’s Pumpkin Patch, 232 N. High St., Biglerville
Oak Grove Farms, 846 Fisher Rd., Mechanicsburg;
Paulus Farm Market, 1216 S. York St., Mechanicsburg
Strites Orchard Farm Market and Bakery 1000 Strites Rd., Harrisburg (Lower Swatara Township)
Brecknock Orchard, 390 Orchard Rd., Mohnton; Brooklawn Farm Market, 2325 Lititz Pike, Lancaster;
Cherry Hill Orchards, 400 Long Lane, Lancaster;
Masonic Village Farm Market, 310 Eden View Rd., Elizabethtown
Good Karma Produce, 104 Dohner St., Rexmont;
Gray’s Apple Ridge, 144 Greble Rd., Jonestown;
Risser-Marvel Farm Market, 2425 Horseshoe Pike, Annville
Barefoot Farms, 6621 Bluebird Lane, Dover;
Brown’s Orchards and Farm Market, 8892 Susquehanna Trail S., Loganville;
Family Tree Farm, 4688 Dairy Rd., Red Lion;
Flinchbaugh’s Orchard and Farm Market, 110 Ducktown Rd., York; Maple Lawn Farms, Inc., 2885 New Park Rd., New Park;
Paulus Orchards, 522 E. Mount Airy Rd., Dillsburg; Raab Fruit Farm, 209 Fruitlyn Dr., Dallastown
Author: Phyllis Zimmerman