Growing Pumpkins for Profit

Growing pumpkins is a great autumn money-maker.  Surprisingly, in many parts of the United States, there aren't enough locally grown pumpkins to meet the huge demand for them. This means that many potential pumpkin buyers search in vain for a locally-grown pumpkin and then end up going to a big box store and buying a pumpkin that has been trucked in from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Since pumpkins will grow well almost anywhere in the US, so there is no reason that vegetable growers shouldn't jump on the bandwagon (or pumpkin wagon) and grow fall pumpkins to sell. Even a small-scale grower can produce a big-time load of pumpkins: pumpkin plantings often yield over 10 tons of pumpkins/acre. That's about 1,000 average-sized pumpkins per acre!

There are several important things to keep in mind when growing pumpkins for profit.

  1. Decide who your customers will be. Will you retail the pumpkins yourself or will you wholesale them to another retailer (farm stand, grocery store, garden center, etc.)? Remember that this decision is two-sided--Do market research to determine whether your target customers are likely to buy from you.

  2. Find out what kind of pumpkin your target customers want to buy. Then, do some research to see if it grows well in your area. Some pumpkins (such as many of the white varieties) are more susceptible to bacterial, fungal, or viral disease than others. So, you'll have to know what challenges you're likely to encounter in your area and select a variety that can overcome them. Your customers may prefer pumpkins of a certain size, shape, or color or prefer to use them for a certain purpose such as baking or carving into Jack O' Lanterns.

  3. Find good sources of pumpkin seeds, necessary growing supplies, and growing information . Pumpkin seeds can be very expensive. So can fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation supplies, mulch and any of the assorted other supplies you may decide to use. Make sure that you have found a good source for all of the supplies that you will need. Your ideal supplier will sell high quality seeds and supplies at competitive prices. Your local feed store or garden center may not fit this bill. Study every growing supply catalog and website that you can find in order to get a sense of what products are available to you.

  4. Your local Cooperative Extension office may have some good pumpkin growing advice for you and is a good place to seek information. If they can't help you, they can certainly direct you to a grower's association or other group who can.

  5. Time your crop so that it matures at the correct time--a field of almost ripe Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins will do you no good at all if the calendar reads November 1st or if your first frost hits before they're ripe! Know how long your pumpkin variety typically takes to mature in your area and time its seeding and/or transplanting accordingly.

  6. Be prepared for a bumper crop- Make sure that you have enough labor to help you harvest your crop as well as a good place to store your pumpkins (somewhere cool but not cold, shaded from the sun and as rodent-proof as possible) and a way to transport your pumpkins.

  7. Price your pumpkins carefully and market them well- Pricing can make the difference between a profitable growing season and a losing one. If you are wholesaling your pumpkins, you might be stuck taking that season's going rate for them (often around 10 cents a pound). If you are retailing the pumpkins yourself, you will have to undertake the task of determining what you want to charge for them. There are many, many, different pricing strategies that you can use to do this, so you'll need to read up on them (dust off those old economics textbooks!) and then set your price.

Your marketing (advertising, retail location, merchandise display, sales pitch, etc.) is also crucial to you success.

There is a lot of money to be made by selling pumpkins. Halloween and Thanksgiving certainly wouldn't be the same without them, so people buy loads of them! Do your research and, if what you find isn't too spooky for you, grow and sell some pumpkins. You might make some serious jingle, just in time for the winter Holidays.

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