As we flip the pages of our calendars from September to October, several images of Alleghany life spring to mind: the high school homecoming parade and football game; cooling temperatures that hint of frost; and the changing of leaf color from shades of green to reds and yellows. A flurry of activity that may be less noticeable is the pumpkin harvest.
For most of the summer the pumpkin fields go unnoticed. The broad leaves of the plants protect first the blooms then the small pumpkins. But as the days shorten and the temperatures cool, the leaves begin to whither, revealing thousands of bright orange pumpkins.
As they consider the fall market, local farmers set out to grow to varieties that lead to a perfect jack-o-lantern pumpkin. They consider customer preferences on size, color and shape. Then as workers move to the fields for the harvest, they sort the pumpkins by size and give each one a quick examination for blemishes or other imperfections. Each harvested pumpkin is then wiped down before being added to the shipping box. It is a labor intensive process. The goal is to send a quality product into homes across the eastern United States.
According to the USDA report, there were 3500 acres of pumpkins grown in North Carolina in 2017. The total cash value of this crop is estimated at $13.1 million. Because of the amount of labor and supporting products needed for this crop, pumpkin farms create and support many jobs to our state and local economy.
So as millions of children visit their neighbors this Halloween in search of candy and treats, there is a good chance that the jack-o-lanterns on all those front porches came from Alleghany County.