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October 23, 2019

Diversifying Your Revenue Stream with Pumpkin Farming

How to cash in on America’s love of fall and all things pumpkin.

Leaves changing color, temperatures dropping, a crisp in the air—it can only mean one thing: fall has arrived, and so has the harvest season. It’s the time of year where farmers can tap into the inevitable pumpkin craze to capitalize on the liquidity of their pumpkin crops.

There are a growing number of farmers who have made the decision to diversify their operations to help compensate their farm revenue. Learn why pumpkins are an ideal cash crop for American farmers.

The Case for Diversification

With the evolution of consumer trends taking a toll on the farming industry, the need for diversification has never been greater. No longer is it viable to have singular-focused operations. Branching out into pumpkin farming is an easy way to test the waters, especially since pumpkins require lower maintenance and can be sold to consumers through a number of outlets. Craig Anderson, a horticulturist for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, explains that it’s a product that can be easily double-cropped behind wheat, for example. “It’s the type of crop you can plant late in June after wheat harvest, and you’ve got another growing season on a piece of land without a lot of input or labor. It’s a nice way to make a little more money on a piece of land.”

The McCall Land & Cattle Company in New Mexico, which has grown pinto beans, alfalfa hay, grass hay, and corn is a great example of an operation which diversified to grow pumpkins. After facing a few difficult years, they were able to build their farm revenue by adding pumpkins into their crop rotation. At first, they sold the pumpkins wholesale to large grocery store chains, but eventually they turned their pumpkin patch into a U-Pick operation. That one decision to grow pumpkins changed the entire future and overall success of their farm operation.

Where to Sell Pumpkins

One of the most appealing parts about planting pumpkins for profit is the versatility of how and where to sell them. There are benefits and drawbacks to each, and only you can decide which is the best fit for your operation.

  • Wholesale – Selling your pumpkins to a wholesale retailer can be a safe, reliable source of income, especially if you contract with shippers to market and distribute for a predetermined price. Another option is to sell wholesale at a produce auction, although keep in mind that the prices can fluctuate from week to week and you will be responsible for transporting your pumpkins to the auction itself. You could also try to sell to cooperatives, which mitigate price fluctuations by spreading out the price differences across the pool of producers.
  • Local retailers and farmers markets – This type of selling requires more hands-on sales and marketing efforts. You’ll need to cultivate relationships and may need to grow specific types of pumpkins and gourds to meet each store’s needs.
  • Roadside stands – Whether you open your own or pair up with other local growers, roadside stands can be quite profitable, often fetching rates much higher than wholesale. However, there are more logistics to coordinate—where to set up your stand, how to get the word out that you’re there, as well as the in-person daily selling that needs to take place.
  • U-Pick/ Pick-Your-Own Pumpkin Patches – Arguably the highest risk endeavor with the highest potential for reward. Opening your farm to the general public may seem like a hassle—after all, you’re responsible for spreading the word and enticing people to drive out to your operation. That said, there are numerous monetary advantages to operating a pumpkin patch. Besides charging a general admission fee, you can offer multiple goods and services, such as crop mazes, hayrides, and general concessions. An added bonus of U-Pick is the cost savings on harvest expenses.

Finding Success with Crop Diversification

Incorporating pumpkins into your farming operation is a great way to diversify and maximize your land usage. Whether you need extra capital to invest in equipment for your pumpkin patch or to get your pumpkins to auction, AgAmerica has a spectrum of lending solutions to help with your operational needs. To learn more contact one of our lending experts today..

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