A Southern Ohio Pumpkin Growers Cooperative has been formed with the help of Brad R. Bergefurd, Extension Educator Agriculture and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University Extension Office of Scioto County.
Bergefurd said the cooperative was officially formed in May, after all of the rules and regulations governing the organization were finalized.
“We have seven members and they are growing a little less than 100 acres of pumpkins,” Bergefurd said.
He said roughly 12 of the 100 acres are in Scioto County, with the rest in surrounding counties.
“For a cooperative like this you’ll want to have your acres spread around that’s why we have some growers in Scioto County, a couple of growers in Pike County and a few growers in Pickaway County,” Bergefurd said.
When asked about the advantages of having a Pumpkin Growers Cooperative, Bergefurd said,”growers can get into markets that maybe only a big farmer could get into. By a bunch of smaller growers getting together, they could market together and as a cooperative they can buy supplies together and by buying them in bulk they can get a cheaper price.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. farmers produced 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins in the top six states—17 percent above 2013. Illinois remains the leading producer of pumpkins, with a majority of supplies processed into pie filling and other uses.
Ohio is included among the top six states, according to the USDA in 2014 Ohio produced 105.3 million pounds of pumpkins. With Illinois coming in with 745.8 million pounds, California with 192.2 million pounds, Pennsylvania 105 million pounds, Michigan 97 million pounds and New York with 69 million pounds.
Bergefurd said the cooperative made one of its first deliveries of pumpkins last week to Rural King in Waverly.
“When they (Rural King) came in with the distribution center, approached one of our farmers and they approached me from OSU. We started talking and told them about the pumpkin grower cooperative idea. They farmer they approached first could not do it (meet the need) by himself, with the cooperative and having seven other folks on board they are able to full fill that market,” Bergefurd said.
He said the cooperative is also selling into Giant Eagle Supermarkets, they are in all of the Columbus based stores.
Bergefurd said for local small acre growers of pumpkins to have their pumpkins into Rural King and Giant Eagle is a good thing. He said growers in southern Ohio have an advantage because they can produce pumpkins sooner than other growers, in other parts of Ohio.
He said the cooperative get reach the early pumpkin market because of growing degree days.
“We started shipping pumpkins two weeks ago. We’re the only ones that have ripe pumpkins now because the northern folks do not have the growing degree days we have here is Scioto County and southern Ohio. That gives up a little bit of an edge, because stores want them in by Labor Day,” Bergefurd said.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101 ext. 1933 or WayneAllenPDT on Twitter.