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In 1541, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado led an expedition through Texas, spending the winter in the High Plains region near what is now Floydada, about 50 miles northeast of Lubbock. According to legend, Coronado and his crew, on the verge of starvation, sought a livelihood from the local tribes in the area, who fed the men what is today considered a famous staple product in these parts: the pumpkin.
This is the first mention of the famous winter squash in Floyd, now known as the Pumpkin Capital of the United States ̵
In its heyday between the 1960s and 1980s, pumpkin growing in the region yielded millions of pumpkins on 30 farms. There are now only about four farmers who grow pumpkin varieties on 1,000 acres each year. And yet, despite the decline in numbers, these farmers still produce about 2 million pumpkins a year.
“I think growing pumpkins is like car racing, rodeo, basketball or yoga,” said Tim Aster, whose family has been growing pumpkins here since the 1960s. “It gets in your blood.”
The story of the Assister Punkin ranch begins with the wife of a close family friend and farmer named “Uncle Slim” Robertson. She persuaded her husband to plant 5 acres of pumpkins a year and the couple began selling the crop at roadside stands. They were so successful that they eventually expanded to vegetable brokers in Dallas and then grocery stores outside in the east, where it is too humid to grow pumpkins.
Robertson, considered the founder of pumpkin growing in Floyd, taught Aster’s father everything he knew about squash. Today, the Assiter family farm grows about 150 different varieties of autumn items, including the famous orange lanterns that children collect each year, as well as the rarer red, blue and pink pumpkins.
No pumpkin looks the same, says Asiter. The largest they have grown has grown to 300 kilograms. As for the name of the farm, Asiter explains that it is a reversal of the word pumpkin, as well as a term for a rural farmer. “If you talk to your husband, you’ll call him a punk,” he says.
Farmers in Floyd start planting pumpkin seeds in mid-May and harvest them about 120 days later in September – cutting the pumpkins from vines, sometimes 30 feet long, when their skins are hard enough to throw them in the carts. reach their mature color.
“Each pumpkin is handled six to seven times before you put it on a truck to go to the grocery store,” says Asiter. “It takes a lot of work.”
This year has been difficult for many reasons. The farm relies on workers from South Texas, which was shattered by hurricanes, as a result of which many workers find work through construction work. Add to that the number of days of 100 degrees and less rainfall than normal, at the peak of a pandemic, and that’s the least of the challenges. Pumpkins need a ton of water and they are not taken kindly, according to Asiter.
“We use our water and resources efficiently in a way that we are very lucky,” he said. “We have 70 years of experience and this experience, of course, pays off very well. We have the right farmers with the right attitude. “
But Assiter notes that the strangest thing about 2020 is the huge demand for pumpkins. As people stay at home and spend more time with their families, they are more focused on time-honored traditions, such as carving lanterns on Halloween, he said.
“The demand to send them and make them available to the public has just been huge,” he said. “That’s twice as much as usual.”
Assiter Punkin Ranch, like most pumpkin destinations, is still open to visitors this year, despite the pandemic. It’s the perfect way to spend time outdoors and socially, says Asiter. And he’s glad people are still going out, because seeing the smiles on children’s faces is the best part of growing a pumpkin.
“The smiles that pumpkins wear are a very important part,” he says.
Here are some of the best pumpkin spots in Lone Star State, some of which grow their own pumpkins on site and others that ship them from places like Floydada.
Assiter Punkin Ranch Visit the ranch to see pumpkin varieties in all shapes and colors, tour the farm and learn how to grow crops. Enjoy other fun autumn activities, such as a pumpkin train ride and a visit to the zoo.
Barton Hill Farm Located next to Austin, you can choose your favorite giant pumpkin lantern, get lost in the 3.5-kilometer maze of corn and relax in a semi-private rental boar. The Autumn Festival and the Pumpkin Patch are held every weekend until November 15 and include daily barbecue and live music.
Sweet fruit farm Situated on 60 acres near Marble Falls, Sweet Berry Farm offers thousands of eye-catching pumpkins, a giant Texas-shaped maze of corn, and miles and miles of wildflowers. Harvest of Fall Fun lasts until November 8, when you can jump on a hybrid or even stuff your own scarecrow.
Autumn in the Arboretum Looking for autumn wonders with everything made from pumpkins? This festival includes four, 20-foot-tall decorated pumpkin houses and creative exhibits made from over 90,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash. Get lost in a maze of hay balls or visit 3.5 acres of food, herbs and a vegetable garden. Enjoy live music on weekends until November 1.
Dewberry Farm Located next to Houston, Dewberry Farm has more than 50 attractions, including an 8-acre corn maze, piles of pumpkins and adorable farm animals. Ride a merry-go-round, tilt slides, shoot with paintball guns and indulge in barbecues, pizzas and other delicacies. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October and choose weekends in November.
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