Big Orange country: Pumpkin crop looks bountiful in Blount County
By Iva Butler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It’s pumpkin time in Tennessee.
Fields are covered with the squash from the Big Orange monsters that average more than 100 pounds heavy. They are used solely for decoration.
Then there are the dull brown field pumpkins waiting for the cinnamon and other spices that will transform them into tasty pies.
Farmers Albert Coning and James Butler in Carpenter’s community have basically planted different types of pumpkins this year.
While some state farmers reported crops ravaged by the wet weather, Coning started picking the Big Orange pumpkins last week and said “it looks pretty good. The big pumpkins are really nice. We’re losing very few.”
They are located in a five-acre patch off Raulston Road, with most ranging from 100 to 130 pounds.
Coning entered 248-pound and 189-pound pumpkins in the Tennessee Valley Fair, but the winner topped 700 pounds.
Farmers produce one big hybrid pumpkin per plant and two per plant for the dramatically smaller squash.
On Tuesday morning Coning had a flat-bed trailer loaded two-deep with 70 pumpkins headed for the Sevier Farmer’s Co-Op in Sevierville.
The large squash, which retail for $25 to $30 each, are for decoration only.
Butler has 20 acres of field pumpkins, also known as pie pumpkins, cushaws and
Cinderella pumpkins, orange squash about the size of field pumpkins, in three fields off Montvale Road.
He said the field pumpkins have been fertilized, but no pesticides have been sprayed on the fruit.
To pick out the best field pumpkin for a pie, select one that is medium brown and heavy in weight. This indicates that the pumpkin is mature, Butler said.
Both Butler and Coning sell their products from individual family markets off Taylor Road (in Carpenter’s community), but the majority are sold to wholesalers throughout the region and adjacent states.
Coning has bright orange Cinderella pumpkins, green with orange highlights, Fairy Tale pumpkins and green- and white-striped cushaws lined up in oversized cardboard boxes, plus corn stalks, ready to load into two tractor trailers for transport to Jackson, Miss.
Coning also has a field of Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins, which are, as the name implies, carved for Halloween.
While the big pumpkins “are already made and are just laying there waiting to be picked up,” he’s not sure how the weather has affected the Jack-O-Lantern crop.
“Jack-O-Lanterns are real sensitive to the weather. Mine are still trying to grow. If the weather stays good and it doesn’t start raining every day for a week or so and then stays wet for a week, we may be fine,” Coning said.
They were planted in early June, about two weeks later than normal due to the wet fields.
Some farmers in Fentress County on the Cumberland Plateau reported losing about 80 percent of their pumpkins this season because of excess rain.