Pumpkins: David Uhlman - Tremont, Illinois

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 1:32 PM CST
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(25 NEWS) - It’s fall and time to enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie.

Did you know Illinois is top producer of pumpkins in the nation?

I had a chance to talk to one of our pumpkin producers, David Uhlman.

“My personal farming journey would have started probably 60 years ago, and I would have been four years old by then. But tagging along with my father, who was a pumpkin farmer also and farmed with my father then and then my brother graduated two years later. So then the three of us farm together.

And then I was starting to manage the farm, and I continued then contracting pumpkins with Libby’s in Morton, Illinois.

And my son also now farms with us.

So it starts with field preparation the year before to build my fertility levels to what pumpkins need in the spring. There are two tillage passes, and then we come in and plant these pumpkins with an actual corn planter.

And what we do then is only plant every other row because the population of pumpkins is only one-fifth of what we plant our corn. And so we play it a little over 6000 seeds per acre of pumpkins. And in corn we’re planning 30 to 35,000.

And then I come in with my row crop cultivator and try to get through the pumpkins twice before they get to the height where they start the vine across the rows.

And once that process starts, we’re pretty much done with any mechanical tillage that we can do ahead of pumpkins. So they’ll bring me seed about the middle to end of April. We usually plant the pumpkins from early May until the end of, you know, end of the first week of June.

What I’ve learned from just visiting with my field man is over the years, they’ve learned that if they can get their pumpkins kind of the basically the closest shape to round as possible, they’ve also made the rind a little bit harder so it doesn’t crack so easy. And then the quality still, though, is high on their list because of the color of the meat. And then probably the last thing on the list is how thick can they get that meat inside the pumpkin.

So pumpkin harvest will start -- it’s just two operations -- one in the row, the other picking up the row, putting it on the conveyor that’s mounted on the tractor or this pull-type machine and putting it into the truck.

Just as a farmer, agriculture producer in general, that emotion is always there, particularly during harvest to think, you know that I have labored and all my commodities, my products are going to be used either for human consumption, livestock consumption. To think that I’ve provided, you know, for people, pumpkin pie, just the enjoyment of it.

But there’s nutritional value that I feel from that also.”

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