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NC growers filling need for early pumpkins

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Bernie's Berries and Produce on Groometown Road in Guilford County is known for delicious strawberries.

In September, you won't find any plants in the field. Instead co-owner James Kenan points to the over 100,000 strawberry plants that are growing in the greenhouse.

"It's something Bernie loves. That and pumpkins," James said. "I'm not sure which one she loves the best."

This time of the year, it's probably safe to say Bernie Kenan has a passion for pumpkins.

"It's almost like being in a variety store," Bernie said. "You don't know what you are going to get til they bring them in."

The four man crew, a father and son team, has it down.

They work in a line, clipping the stem and setting the pumpkins in a row. Whether they are big or small, orange or white, the team pass the pumpkins down the line and load them into the all terrain vehicle.

The group then drives the pumpkins to the roadside market where they are unloaded and the process starts again.

While state agricultural officials call pumpkins a minor crop, after Labor Day, they are a big deal at Bernie's Berries.

"Most of the time they want to put it on the front porch," bernie said. "Most are looking for a large one. They want something to decorate with."

Bernie walks along the pumpkins and notices a huge orange pumpkin with a long stem. To her, it's a pumpkin that is ready to be decorated.

"This is the nose," she says as she points to the stem.

What about the dimples above the stem?

"The eyes here. And a bonnet on top makes a great witch," Bernie said.

At times, it's still hard for Bernie to believe that people are thinking about witches and pumpkins in early September.

"It's one of those seasons people get excited about. I think we plan for it and decorate more and more just like Christmas," Bernie said.

But unlike a Christmas present, she explained a pumpkin with an odd shape is not as much of a welcomed gift.

"Lots of people decorate with them," Bernie said.

So as long as people continue to buy pumpkins in early September, Bernie's Berries is ready.

"I already have eight bins sold to a girl in Southport that wants us to deliver there. I have another bin sold to a girl in Kernersville. We have a lot sold already," Bernie said.

Bernie's Berries is at 5421 Groometown Road in Greensboro. The farm store is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

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