NIBLEY – The summer warmth has faded and fall’s cool crisp air and shortening days are causing colorful leaves to drop and orange pumpkins to sit on front steps of neighborhood houses. Pumpkins will soon be made into Jack-O-Lanterns for Halloween.
Pumpkins can be found at roadside stands across Cache Valley this time of year.
The fall porch prop is a big part of Jim Zollinger’s business. He is the owner of Willow Creek Produce, located at 1810 West 3200 South, just south of Ted’s Service on Highway 89/91. Zollinger has been selling produce for approximately 22 years at his roadside produce operation.
“I’ve been farming all my life,” he said. “Earlier this season I had a good corn and peach business, but pumpkins are my biggest seller.”
During the fall, his potatoes and gourds sell, but the pumpkins are all the rage. This time of year, cars keep pulling in non-stop. Children tumble out of their cars to walk through and pick through his hundreds of pumpkins.
“Monday nights I’m usually here an hour and a half after my 6 p.m. closing,” he said. “People bring their kids and make an evening of buying pumpkins.”
He said the season has been a little different this year; with the late spring, a lot of the pumpkins didn’t grow.
“I planted 15 acres of pumpkins and I only had about seven acres mature enough to harvest this year,” Zollinger said. “Some years I can fill seven bins with pumpkins, this year I’m lucky to fill a bin one and a half times.”
He had to raise prices a little this year to cover his expenses.
“I don’t have as many mini pumpkins this year, so I raised the price from .50 cents to a dollar,” Zollinger said. “I still have to pay for my help, seeds and fertilizer.”
Zollinger blames the late spring and the south winds that dried the ground out a whole lot faster than he wanted.
“I posted on Facebook I needed help, and I have a group of kids on the place to help pick the crop,” he said. “I have friends who come and pick up leftover pumpkins to feed deer during the winter.”
“It seems like every year is different,” he continued. “About the time you think you’ve got it figured out, the next year is different.”
He said being a roadside farmer is definitely an experience.
Besides being a porch decoration, pumpkins are a member of the squash family, rich in beta-carotene according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid and antioxidant. This natural plant compound is what gives pumpkins their bright orange hue.
Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) developed a way to measure beta-carotene and other beneficial carotenoids found in pumpkins. The scientists said pumpkin has more beta-carotene than many other foods in your kitchen.
Even more exciting is the human body can naturally convert beta-carotene into vitamin A—an essential vitamin that helps promote good eye health and vision, healthy skin, proper development and more.
Pumpkin can be used in a variety of tasty dishes from soups and smoothies to snacks and your favorite desserts.