By Clint Thompson
An increase in pumpkin acreage has netted Drew Echols income he hadn’t largely counted on prior to 2020. But as demand for the fall-based crop has increased in recent years, so has Echols’ acreage.
He produced about 50 acres in 2020, 120 in ’21, 150 in ’22 and has peaked at 175 this season.
“I don’t know of anybody who’s retired a wealthy man from the pumpkin business, but it does help to make money instead of losing money,” said Echols, owner of Jaemor Farms in North Georgia. “Right now, the market’s pretty good. I’m pretty pleased with the market.
“It’s a relatively inexpensive way to spruce your house up. For $100, you can have a really nice pumpkin display. I’m not belittling $100, but that’s really not that much money to have something that you can put out on your porch from mid-September until Thanksgiving and have some really cool decorations.”
Echols credits the new pumpkin varieties for growers like himself to be able to produce a crop to begin with. Producing pumpkins can be quite difficult where he is located.
“It’s very difficult to grow them here in the Southeast but especially with elevation like it is. There are some areas in North Carolina that are like 2,500 feet in elevation. We’re at like 1,200 and 1,400. There’s a lot of new varieties out here. Because pumpkins are so popular, there’s a lot of new varieties that are – I’m not saying that they’re idiot proof because they’re still hard to grow, but the seed companies are helping out a lot,” Echols said.
“Clearly, I think we have knowledge of how to do this in North Georgia. It’s just a manpower, space and equipment thing. Couple that with how busy we are here retail and agritourism wise during the month of October … am I going to expand? Absolutely. I’m going to try to find a couple of guys that are interested; some row crop guys. I’m going to try to find some guys that would be interested in growing and working with me. I think it’ll ultimately help them make more money and help make my customers happier.”
Pumpkins provide a photographic opportunity when families flock to agritourism destinations like Jaemor Farms to look for the perfect pumpkin. It adds to the appeal and demand for the crop this time of year. Echols’ group finished constructing a pyramid of pumpkins display that holds 26 bins of pumpkins. It was just in time for the weekend rush.
“If I had a nickel for every picture that was taken of it Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I could probably go ahead and retire,” Echols said.