It is finally, officially fall. FALL. A season that all right-thinking people agree is the absolute best time of the year.
Fall, as we know, is a time for sweaters, hot cocoa, and decorative gourds. And the king of all decorative gourds is, obviously, the pumpkin. Whether lighting up your porch with Halloween cheer, or seasoning your favorite pies, coffees, vodkas and dog foods, the pumpkin is that rarest of gourds that is at once stylish AND functional.
But have you ever stopped to wonder where your pumpkins come from? Of course you have! And I've got answers courtesy of one of the absolute finest datasets in existence: the USDA Agricultural Census.
This map shows the total acres of pumpkins harvested, by county, in 2012. As you can see, pumpkin-growing is spread out across the United States. Since they're both cheap and heavy, it doesn't make sense to haul giant gourds long distances. So a lot of pumpkin production happens close to home.
Pumpkins are grown commercially in just about every county in the Northeastern states. There are plenty of pumpkins grown along the west coast, and throughout the mountain west as well. But interestingly, there's an arc of relatively pumpkin-free counties running from eastern Montana all the way down through the middle of the country and across to Florida. Here, let me show you:
But let's set aside the pumpkin-impoverished counties for the time being. On the other end of the pumpkin spectrum, America's pumpkin capital is *drumroll please* Tazewell County, Ill., which grew nearly 5,000 acres of the orange gourds in 2012.
Now, you can expect a typical acre of jack-o-lantern pumpkin plants to yield between 2,000 and 3,000 pumpkins. So given that Tazewell County's population is about 140,000 people, that means that during harvest season there are roughly 10 times as many pumpkins as human beings in the county. Cool!
For reference, here are the top ten pumpkin-producing counties in the U.S.
|COUNTY||ACRES OF PUMPKINS|
|Tazewell County, IL||4,669|
|San Joaquin County, CA||3,441|
|Mason County, IL||2,627|
|Wayne County, IL||1,547|
|Peoria County, IL||1,323|
|Stark County, IL||1,068|
|Yoakum County, TX||1,014|
|Lancaster County, PA||1,004|
|Carroll County, VA||703|
|Suffolk County, NY||641|
In 2012, nationally, farmers grew 90,165 acres of pumpkins, according to the U.S. Agricultural Census. Assuming an average yield of 3,000 pumpkins per acre, that works out to about 270 million pumpkins produced in the U.S. that year.
Not enough, if you ask me.