Halloween season is officially here, a time of year awaited by both kids and adults alike. The spooky holiday remains one of the biggest of the year, and not just for the revelers, but also suppliers.
Candy corporations, party stores, even makeup artists bring home a huge bankroll when November 1st rolls around, but what many might overlook is just how much the holiday helps support American farmers.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 41 percent of Americans will carve a fresh pumpkin during the Halloween season. In some states (like California), sales of the gourds can top $31 million in just this time of year alone.
The reason pumpkin carving has become such a popular festivity during Halloween is actually because of Irish immigrants who brought their traditions with them when immigrating to the country around the mid-19th century.
The practice of carving pumpkins starts with an Irish folktale about a character named “Stingy Jack.” According to legend, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him, and true to his name, decided he didn’t want to pay the tab. So, he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin, which Jack could use to buy their drinks.
Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money instead, and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back to his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul.
When the time eventually came for Jack to pass into the afterlife, God wouldn’t let him into heaven because of his choice to lead a life of sin. The Devil, upset that Jack tricked him, would not allow Jack into hell either. So Jack was sent off into the pitch black night with one burning coal to light the way. As the story goes, Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and wandered the Earth with it ever since, haunting those that crossed him.
By the 19th century the Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern” before the name was shortened to “Jack-O’-Lantern.” The people of Ireland began to make their own versions of the candle-lit decoration by carving scary faces into turnips and potatoes, and placing them into windows or near doorways to frighten away Jack and other wandering evil spirits.
Not long after, European immigrants started to flee Ireland and migrated to the United States, bringing with them the Jack-O’-Lantern tradition.
When arriving in the U.S., however, they found that native pumpkins were more ideal than turnips since they’re larger in size, have strong walls, and are hollow. This holiday tradition was soon adopted by many Americans and the old Irish story of the “Jack-O’-Lantern” spread throughout the nation, which also gave rise to the popularity of the pumpkin farm.
More than just a purchase point, pumpkin farms have become part of an experience known as agritourism (farms that host the community and tourists). Unlike the other grocery stores, wholesale markets, co-ops, farmers markets, and roadside stands where pumpkins are available, at these specialty farms you can take part in a number of festive activities, such as tractor rides, petting zoos, corn mazes, cook-offs, and festive crafts.
According to Jane Eckert, CEO of Eckert AgriMarketing (a firm specializing in providing marketing resources and consultation to farms, wineries, and ranches involved in agritourism), “Depending on the location and the ability to attract customers, farms [can profit] from selling not only pumpkins, but also food concessions and fall decorations, as well as wagon rides, corn mazes and other family activities. …In fact, many fall season farms are actually charging a general admission just to [enter].”
As such, the Halloween season (generally late September to early November) has turned into big business for many pumpkin farmers that venture into agritourism.
While the average pumpkin sells for about $4 to $8, most families spend at least $20 to $40 for the outing. Multiply that by thousands of guests over the course of the fall season, and returns of $100,000 are not that out of reach in October.
That’s because, on average, pumpkin farms produce 40 tons per acre—depending on how favorable weather conditions are and how many pumpkin seeds are planted. So, if a farmer has 15 acres of pumpkins, each of which produces 40 tons per acre, and each pumpkin sells for 12 cents a pound (the average figure according to a 2015 report from the USDA), he or she can make $144,000. Here’s the math:
40 tons x 15 acres = 600 tons
Because there are 2,000 pounds in 1 ton, 2,000 pounds x 600 tons = 1,200,000 pounds
1,200,000 pounds x .12 cents per pound = $144,000
That figure comes from just 15 acres of pumpkin-filled land. But imagine larger farms that are 30 acres—that profit is now doubled to $288,000. In all, profit depends on the size of the farm and marketability to the public. But since the goal is to get people on the farm to buy, making it an enjoyable place for the community and families is critical to the business.
If you don’t like near a rural area, you can still get the experience by growing your very own little pumpkin patch right in your backyard, and have them ready by Halloween with these handy tips.
Either way you choose to get your pumpkins—at home or on the farm—be sure to keep the seeds after you core them out for décor. The seeds make a nutritious and delicious snack, especially with this recipe.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont
Emily lived most of her life in Orange County before relocating to Chicago, followed by NYC. She recently made her way back to the West Coast and now lives in Los Angeles with her adorable cat, Charlie Murphy. Her background is in Copywriting & SEO for Fortune 500 companies, and also worked as an assistant editor and blogger for different brands in the fashion industry during her time in NYC. Aside from her love of writing and eye for style, Emily likes to travel, read anything Anthony Bourdain related, and go on spontaneous adventures.
Download the app for easy shopping on the go
By providing your mobile number, you agree to receive marketing text messages from Thrive Market. Consent not a condition to purchase. Msg & data rates apply. Msg frequency varies. Reply HELP for help and STOP to cancel.