Nearly 40 percent of the pumpkins produced in the United States come from Illinois. Illinois produced over 650 million pounds of pumpkins in 2021, more than the next five top states combined. Indiana was the second-largest pumpkin producing state with 181 million pounds. Illinois is home to well-draining soil and hot, dry weather, and those are ripe conditions for pumpkin production.
Illinois is home to two large pumpkin processing plants. The biggest is Nestle Libby in Morton, the town dubbed as the Pumpkin Capital of the World. This plant produces over 85 percent of the canned pumpkins sold in the U.S. Also, Seneca Foods has a processing plant in Princeville. The top pumpkin producing counties are Tazewell, Kankakee, Mason, Logan, Will, Marshall, Kane, Pike, Carroll and Woodford.
“Being born and raised in Morton, I can tell you we are very proud of our pumpkin heritage,” stated Rep. Bill Hauter (R-Morton). “Agriculture is the number one industry in Illinois generally and in my district specifically, with pumpkin production playing a huge role. We are proud to be the pumpkin capital of the world!”
Illinois produces plenty of the jack-o-lantern pumpkins, but it also is known for the smaller, sweet variety of pumpkins known as sugar pumpkins. These are traditionally used for pies. Nearly 18,000 acres of pumpkins were planted in Illinois in 2021, with 97 percent of those going to processing plants.
Pumpkins take about 120 days to grow from planting to harvest. Libby’s and Seneca Foods contract with farmers in their regions to grow processing pumpkins. Typically, farmers plant seeds for processing pumpkins in April and May for a harvest that starts in late July and lasts through November. Farmers typically plant ornamental pumpkins in May and June for a harvest closer to the beginning of fall. The sprawling plants grow and cover fields with vines up to 30 feet long.