October 22, 2004


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois grows more pumpkins than any other state in the country.

It harvests nearly 12,300 acres of the popular decorative and edible fruit, 40 percent more than the second-leading pumpkin-producing state, Michigan.

The crop’s value fluctuates depending upon yield and prices, but generally exceeds $10 million.

Frey Farms, located in Keenes, Ill., east of Mt. Vernon, is among the state’s top producers. Company president Sarah Frey-Talley and her four brothers devote 750 acres of their family’s 1,200-acre farm to pumpkins and contract with growers throughout southeastern Illinois to produce pumpkins on an additional 750 acres.

The business accounts for 12 percent of the state’s pumpkin acreage and makes the 28-year-old Frey-Talley one of the youngest high-volume pumpkin producers in the Midwest, if not the entire United States.

This year, Frey Farms sold one million pumpkins to the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, which ships them to its stores nationwide. Another 500,000 pumpkins were bought from non-contract growers and re-sold to other distribution centers and retail outlets.

Illinois is not only the nation’s leading pumpkin producer, but also its leading pumpkin processor. In fact, most of its production is canned at one of two plants near Peoria — Libby’s in Morton or Seneca Foods in Princeville — and used to make pies and other dishes. According to Bob Reese, a marketing representative for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, an estimated 95 percent of the pumpkins processed in the United States are grown in Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture helps pumpkin farmers and other specialty crop growers expand markets for their produce. Its efforts include the creation of a logo to raise awareness about the wide variety of specialty crops grown in the state and to promote their sale and consumption. The full-color logo sports the slogan “Illinois: Where Fresh Is” and features a collection of Illinois produce. It currently is used by specialty growers on packaging and in advertising. Ultimately, the department hopes grocery stores will adopt the logo to identify sales space that has been devoted exclusively to Illinois produce.


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