Great year for local pumpkin growers

CLIMAX, N.C. -- Halloween is coming up fast. But if you haven't found your pumpkin yet, you are in luck. Even after a busy weekend, Faylene Whitaker of Whitaker Farms in Climax said there's plenty of pumpkins to choose from.

"We had our fall festival on Saturday and we sold a lot of pumpkins," Whitaker said "So it's that time of the year until the end of the month. And after that you can't give them away."

So from now until Halloween, you can buy small hand-sized pumpkins to massive pumpkins that require a truck to carry home. But most people prefer medium-size pumpkins.

"About basketball size to a little larger is what most people call Jack-o'-lantern size with a good stem so they can make a Jack-o'-lantern," Whitaker said.

Pumpkins like a warm and dry growing season and that's exactly what we had this summer. So while there's plenty to choose from, that doesn't mean big bucks for the farm. Pumpkins are not a cash crop in North Carolina. So the return investment comes from smiling children. And there were lots of happy Trinity Elementary first graders choosing pumpkins at Whitaker Farms.

"We decided today we would go to the pumpkin patch to let them pick their own pumpkin and see how the pumpkins actually grow," first-grade teacher Shanda Myers said.

The small children took home easy-to-carry small pumpkins. But parents like Christy Marshall knew what their child really wanted.

"The bigger the better," Marshall said.

Christina Falcon and her daughter also had their eye on the perfect carving-sized pumpkin.

"Nice and round. Big to make spooky faces," Falcon said.

The pumpkin craze will fade until next Halloween. But growers like Whitaker will have a few available just for November shoppers.

"Pumpkins are very seasonal," Whitaker said. "We do grow a few cooking pumpkins for the people that want pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving."