Monday, October 21, 2013


Every year about this time, my mind turns to those orange pumpkins and of my youth. I'm not sure how old I was when the birth of a pumpkin grower began but judging from this picture (I'm the tall one on the right), I must have been around ten or eleven. That was the year we planted several hills of pumpkins for Halloween and had a bumper crop which is displayed on either side of our driveway. As you can see, we were very proud of our crop of pumpkins.

Not needing that many pumpkins, we loaded them up into the family truck and sold them 30 miles down the road at the 'local' grocery store for a hundred dollars. I have rarely felt so rich as I did back them with fifty of those dollars burning a hole in my pocket. Most importantly, the grocery store promised they would buy pumpkins from us next year if we raised them and thus began my first business, one that would pay my way through six years of college and set me on a debt free track for the rest of my life.

My younger brother and I grew that business, with some help from our parents, from selling pumpkins to the local store by the pickup truck load to selling to St. Louis and Chicago by the semi-load. It was a lot of work, mostly in the coolness of fall, but a labor of love. Even after we got big, we still kept our local roots and sold them every year at the local fall festival for a song compared to what you paid for them at the grocery stores. We even carried them to your car with a smile even it you were parked a half mile away on the bluff above the river bottom.

College intervened and our pumpkin business closed up shop with the fall crop of '91. My younger brother and I both moved away from the farm though I still bought a pumpkin every fall from a local farmer if I could find one to carve and display for Halloween. After I moved back to southeast Iowa and nearer my parent's farm, they started growing a few hills of pumpkins in their garden for my daughter to pick her pumpkin. It is one of the greatest joys in my life to see the joy in her eyes as she wanders the patch. When there is a bumper year and my parents have more pumpkins than they know what to do with, we will load up our van and turn into a pumpkin fairy of sorts dropping off pumpkins on the doorsteps of friends who have children who will appreciate them. This year due to the dry summer and below average yield, that won't happen.

One of these days when/if grandchildren start entering my life, I am going to have to start raising a patch of my own again. Orange gold. The building blocks of two farm boys from southeast Iowa.


Anonymous said...

What do you mean hills ?. And how do you keep them from rotting. I've grown them in the UK for a client and the darn things rotted even though I spread straw under them. Courgettes are about as big as we can go without fuss.

warren said...

Fantastic! In some ways, it would be so nice if you could just keep doing that same business as a full time gig...for me anyhow, life is simpler when doing that sort of work. Doesn't always pay real well but simpler!

Ed said...

Vince - Hilling is a term used with squash and pumpkins. I think it came from people making a small hill and planting the multiple seeds in the top. We didn't make actual hills but I still used the term. Basically one hill equals one plant growing from two or three seeds. Our falls are typically dry so the pumpkins rest on dry soil and don't rot. For the most part. Some do rot if they ripen too early but the majority are okay.

Warren - It would be nice to do something like that again and though I probably won't give growing pumpkins a go again, perhaps something else.