Farmers’ fall features more than 50,000 pumpkins

Farmers’ fall features more than 50,000 pumpkins
Between Labor Day and Halloween, the stems are cut off of 50,000 to 70,000 pumpkins at Windy Hills Farm in Montgomery County.

During that same time, members of the Alpha Gamma Rho agricultural fraternity at Virginia Tech help load the pumpkins on trucks to be delivered to 25 Walmart stores within a 100-mile radius. Since 1999, partners Dan Brann and Chuck King have grown a commercial pumpkin crop; for the 10 years they’ve grown pumpkins on 30 acres owned by Bill and Darin Grear. 

Brann and King supply Walmart stores from Wytheville to Lynchburg and Martinsville to Covington. Many stores display a Brann & King Pumpkin Farm banner over the pumpkins.

During the harvest season, “there’s something to do every day—usually for 12 to 14 hours,” Brann said. 
King added that many days “I don’t eat supper until 9 p.m., but we do what it takes to make it work. It’s a whole lot to get done in six weeks, but we manage,” he said with a chuckle.

The farmers plant wheat after the pumpkin harvest, so they are busy planting in late October to early November and then harvesting that crop in June and July. They sell the wheat to the Mennel Milling Co. flour mill in Roanoke. Last year, for the first time, they grew barley that they sold to a Virginia whiskey distiller and a malt house in North Carolina.

Pumpkins sold as specialty crop in Virginia

Pumpkins are an important specialty crop in Virginia, with more than 2,000 acres grown annually. Pumpkin farms range from 1 acre to several hundred. 

Pumpkins are marketed as an ornamental crop, and they are sold from primarily from late September through Halloween.

They belong to the cucurbits family of vegetables, which also includes melons, cucumbers, gourds and summer and winter squash. 

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