When it comes to pumpkin picking, Forsyth County residents have plenty of patches from which to choose.
Pumpkins are second only to Christmas trees for the Kinsey (click for map) Family Farm, where co-owner Andy Kinsey said the family business goes beyond sales.
Families hunting a pumpkin can stay for a hayride, feed fish and shoot apples from an apple cannon.
But it’s not just the fall festivities that keep the farm’s loyal customers coming back, Kinsey said, it’s the variety.
From the wart-covered knuckleheads and plumb bumpy pumpkins to those weighing in at more than 100 pounds, variety is the key to Kinsey’s success.
“We’ve got red ones, we’ve got white ones, we’ve got green ones, we’ve got tan ones, and we’ve got one that’s called fairy tale,” he said.
“We’re trying to develop a reputation of variety. Color varieties are more fun than just orange pumpkins.”
There are also pumpkins and gourds of all colors, shapes and sizes at Cumming First United Methodist Church. (click for map)
The patch, which has become an annual tradition, is an effort between the children’s and youth ministries. Proceeds go toward vacation Bible school activities and mission events next summer.
At 9 a.m. and noon on weekdays, Corny the Crow and Scarecrow will tell stories to children. There also will be pumpkin decorating, coloring and snacks.
Cherie Perkins, associate director of children’s ministries, said there are more than 4,000 pumpkins in the patch, priced between 75 cents and $16.
“We have about 1,000 children who come through our pumpkin patch every year, and that’s just during the storytime alone,” she said. “This is about the 12th year we’ve done this ... and most of the proceeds go to either children or youth mission work.”
Over at Bottoms Christmas Tree Farm (click for map), owner Sandra Bottoms has noticed families have some new pumpkin strategies this year, perhaps due to the economy.
“I had not ever thought of this, but so many of my moms are painting, not carving, this year,” she said. “They’re going to paint them for Halloween and then turn them around and use them for their fall display.”
Because all of Bottoms’ pumpkins are grown on site, there is a limited supply. About 125 monster pumpkins will be featured during a barn sale Saturday.
The pumpkins, she said, are all at least 40 pounds. There are also regular-sized pumpkins, called “big max,” which will be available Saturday, along with butternut squash, corn stalks, jams, jellies and banana bread.
Saturday will be the last day of pumpkin sales for Bottoms’ farm.
“A week ago was the perfect time to start buying your pumpkin,” she said.
Among tips for spotting the perfect pumpkin are to check for blemishes on the bottom, where it’s been resting.
“You have to treat it gently,” she said. “If the stem comes off, it’s not going to make it to Halloween.”
Because carving a pumpkin expedites the rotting process, Publix spokeswoman Brenda Reid suggests waiting to carve until late October.
“I like to buy mine a little closer to Halloween because I like it to stay fresh, because I’m carving mine,” she said. “But I think it depends on what you’re going to do with it.”
The Publix pumpkins are all grown locally, Reid said. While the farmers aren’t always from the same county, they are typically from the same state.
This ensures a fresher product, and lowers the shipping cost, which reduces the overall cost, she said. Many customers get their pumpkins while grocery shopping.
“You can save time and pick it up while you’re out doing errands, and save gas,” she said. “It is just something that customers enjoy. It’s a seasonal product and ... it is a way to provide products our customers want.”
Kinsey said his farm has a seemingly endless supply of orange pumpkins, many of which can last to Thanksgiving if they’re kept in a dry area.
The pumpkins come from Michigan, which has a better climate for growing thick-skinned, long-lasting pumpkins.
Halloween is still a few week away, but Kinsey said business has been steady, with many customers starting to buy pumpkins for pie.
Green pumpkins are the best for cooking, he said. A week or two before Halloween, families will make a day out of picking their pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern.