Step 1: Pick a good one

Hannah Rogers, 8, of York, holds a pumpkin at Bush-N-Vine on U.S. 321 in York on Tuesday.
Hannah Rogers, 8, of York, holds a pumpkin at Bush-N-Vine on U.S. 321 in York on Tuesday.

Pumpkin pies or Jack 'O Lanterns? Cream white or bright orange? A three-pound pumpkin or perhaps a 30-pounder?

For customers venturing out to produce stands, it's time to choose.

The fall produce long associated with harvest and Halloween has started to line the yards of local produce stands across York County.

For many farmers, the pumpkins are the first sign of a profitable produce since a spring freeze destroyed the peach crop and the summer drought devastated summer produce.

Normally it's hard to grow pumpkins in South Carolina because of the heat, combined with wet weather, said Bush-N-Vine owner Bob Hall.

With this year's drought, that wasn't a problem.

"It's just a beautiful crop," Hall said. "The dry weather has been good for them."

Hall sells pumpkins from his stand off Filbert Highway, as well as operates a pick-your-own pumpkin patch. This year he has pumpkins of every size, he said.

Andy Rollins, fruit and vegetable specialist with the Clemson Extension Office, said diseases and humidity make growing pumpkins difficult. There are only a handful of farmers who grow them in Upstate South Carolina.

The dry weather has meant less disease, he said.

While pumpkins don't bring a huge profit for farmers, some make a little money from agri-tourism, Rollins said.

"It's a real good thing," he said. "Children from schools will go visit farms, and a lot of times that's their only exposure to ever being on a farm."

The Peach Tree owner Ben Smith, who opted to import his pumpkins, also sees the pumpkins as a blessing from the drought.

"Since it was so dry, the shelf life on these pumpkins is going to be great this year," said Smith.

Last week, his employees unloaded a 44,000 pound shipment of pumpkins from Hebron, Ohio.

For produce stand owners, pumpkins keep sales going between the summer produce and Christmas trees, which start selling after Thanksgiving. Pumpkins make up about 5 percent of Smith's sales, he said.

This year's pumpkins have strong-looking green stems that buyers like to see, he said.

"They've got a real tall handle this year," he said.

Now farmers are just waiting for families to start coming with their children.