Va. pumpkin growers hold annual meeting

AFP Correspondent

HILLSVILLE, Va. (Feb. 10, 2015) — Interest in commercial pumpkin production is spreading across Virginia, if attendance at the annual Virginia Pumpkin Growers Association meeting was any indication.
“Pumpkins continue to increase in acreage, yield per acre and geographic locations from far Southwestern Virginia to Chesapeake, Va.,” Dr. Dan Brann, retired Virginia Tech small grains Extension specialist and veteran pumpkin grower, reported after the Jan. 31 meeting at the Government Center in Carroll County.
“Members and potential members traveled from throughout the commonwealth, including Chesapeake, Nelson, and Pittsylvania counties in Virginia and from several farms in North Carolina.
Attendees included producers, seed and crop protection companies, pumpkin buyers and government employees.”
A highlight of the group’s year was its presence at the State Fair of Virginia where youth from pumpkin growing families were recognized in a new competition.
Brann reported that Barry Robinson, sustainable horticulturist and ag consultant, who had been hired by the group to make the event happen, described its success.
Both the competition and the interest from fair visitors were evidence of the interest, Brann said.
During the three days the display was open at the fair, Robinson told the group 2,500 people visited it to discuss pumpkin production in Virginia and vote to select the best pumpkins among the eight presented.
First place was won by Noah Fitzgerald of Nelson County, second by Ashton Hall of Montgomery County, third by Zach Dulaney of Montgomery County and fourth by Moriah Marshall of Carroll County. Plaques were presented to all eight entries at the VPGA annual meeting. Plans are being made to make this event even more successful next year, Brann stated.
The program for the day was filled with introduction of horticulturist, Suzanne Slack, the new Virginia Tech area horticultural agent, a panel discussion from buyers and technical information for growers from specialists and producers.
A highlight of the meeting was a panel of three very large pumpkin buyers. 
They included Mitchell Bottomley of Bottomley’s Evergreens in North Carolina and Virginia, Moir Beamer of Virginia Produce Company in Hillsville, Va., and Steve Howerton of Frye Produce headquartered in Keenes, Ill.
“The general feeling was that bin sizes for pumpkins will likely be mostly in the 40-50 pumpkin range for 2015. Some markets are moving toward requiring pumpkins to be washed before being binned for sale,” Brann said.
Brann said he is hopeful that will not become the standard for all markets. 
The group also heard from Dr. Allen Straw, Virginia Tech vegetable specialist, updated growers on response of pumpkins to calcium silicate, herbicide recommendations, pumpkin variety update, and a general pumpkin production update.
Silicate is essential for optimum plant growth.
Producers needing information should contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Micah Raub, of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services discussed worker protection standards and upcoming regulations.
Chuck King of Christiansburg was re-elected president during the business meeting. Danny Cassell will serve as vice president, and Kevin Semmones of Carroll County as secretary-treasurer.