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Pumpkin Production in Illinois

Pumpkin Production in Illinois

Happy Halloween! One of my favorite Halloween traditions is carving pumpkins and seeing all of the creative ideas my family members come up with. Creativity is essential to create the best pumpkin out of my family members, but having the pumpkins to carve is the most critical part of the process. Did you know that six states in the United States produce the majority of pumpkins sold in the country? 

Illinois is one of those six states and is home to the pumpkin capital of the world! Illinois is the leading state for the amount of acres of pumpkins harvested as well as an even larger amount of processing acres. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “In 2020, Illinois increased its acreage and leading position, harvesting more than twice as many pumpkin acres as any of the other top States, at 15,900 acres.” Pumpkin production in the United States is majorly targeted for seasonal markets or ornamental uses. “The most recent available data indicates that almost 80 percent of pumpkin acres in Illinois are devoted to varieties destined for pie filling or other processing uses,” the USDA continued. 

You can find the pumpkin capital of the world just down the interstate from where our local readers live. Morton, IL holds this title because 85% of the world’s canned pumpkin is packed in the Nestles/Libby’s plant located in the center of the town. The plant is a Libby’s pumpkin processing plant and is owned by Nestle Food. Dickinson pumpkins are the variety Libby’s chooses to use for their products. Dickinson pumpkins weigh 10-14 pounds and are tan in color. They take about 105 days from planting to maturity. The Libby’s plant processes 500,000 pumpkins per day into cans. Throughout processing, the pumpkins go through a disinfectant wash and are rinsed. Then, they are chopped and cooked before canning. After processing, the cans are shipped off to local and big name grocery stores.

Dickinson pumpkins compare to the Halloween pumpkins used for pumpkin carving by being smaller in size, along with other traits. Libby’s describes the difference as, “The Dickinson pumpkins are smaller, squatter, meatier, heavier and sweeter than the Halloween pumpkin. It has a creamy texture and fresh pure pumpkin flavor.” The varieties that will be used for pumpkin carving include the Jack-O-Lantern variety, as well as white Lumina pumpkins. Illinois produces many Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins, but the state mainly produces pumpkins used for pumpkin pies. One place in our Central Illinois area that you can find ornamental pumpkins is Ackerman Farms near Morton, IL. 

Illinois is a top state in pumpkin production because of the climate and soil type found in the state. The pumpkin processing industry was established in the state in the 1920s. The process of growing pumpkins and building an industry around it has been many years in the making here in Illinois, and the experience and knowledge gained by our local farmers is what allows Illinois to stay a top producing state (along with the environmental factors). The top five counties in the state, in order from most acres harvested to least acres harvested, for growing pumpkins are: Tazewell, Mason, Wayne, Peoria, and Stark. 

The knowledge about pumpkin production in Illinois is interesting and relevant to know at this time of the year for both Halloween and the upcoming Pumpkin Pie season as Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away. This Halloween and Thanksgiving, you can support our local farmers by choosing pumpkins from the area and by choosing pumpkin products created from locally grown pumpkins. We hope you enjoy the holiday and we wish everyone a happy and safe Halloween!

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