What Happens to the World's Unused Pumpkins?

Sunday evening, just hours until Halloween, there were still hundreds of un-sold pumpkins at a local farmers market. It raised the question -- what happens to all the left-behind gourds? Do the extras go to the pie factory? Or are they all just tossed in the dump?

Turns out Libby's, of canned pumpkin-filling fame, gets all their pumpkins from specific farms around Morton, Illinois. Straight from farm-to-can is how they roll, so no pie glory there for the extras.

Farmers who grow pumpkins find more use for them. Ginger Mynatt of Sherman, who is a master gardener and has dabbled in the pumpkin farm business, explained to me how those in the industry handle the extra.

"Larger pumpkin growers," said Mynatt, "usually return any unsold pumpkins back to the field and plow them in to add extra nutrients to the soil. People on farms that have livestock often feed them to cattle, sheep, goats, chickens and poultry. Pigs are not real fond of them, according to my husband who grew up raising hogs.

"We offered some to the Salvation Army one year, but they didn't want to mess with cooking and fixing them since pumpkin preparation is time consuming and messy."

Another grower of gourds from Elves Farm in Denison, Marshall Cathey, wrote, "Some years there are issues with canned pumpkin so we were one of the only sources for fresh pumpkin for baking. We can also use them feed to some of our livestock."

The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens has over 50,000 pumpkins for their autumn festival, which lasts until Thanksgiving. A call to the arboretum revealed that what the squirrels don't eat, they either compost or send to the Dallas Zoo for the animals.

The zoo. Who knew? Obviously the best thing we can do is compost them. Preferably before they turn into gooey slop on the front porch.

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