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Social media is fueling an American pumpkin boom

Tracey Marx Bernstein
Senior Producer

It’s the Fall and with that comes weekend plans to go Apple and Pumpkin picking. Facebook feeds fill up with photos and videos of kids in pumpkin patches and running through corn mazes but it's also become a booming business.

“A large majority of pumpkin sales are during the fall,” Gregory Astill, an economist at the United States Department of Agriculture told Yahoo Finance’s YFiAM. “If we look at per-capita consumption of pumpkins, in 2018, it was 6 pounds per person on average in the US. You go back 10 years, and we were at 4 pounds per person.”

In 2017, farmers across the top 16 pumpkin-producing states harvest about 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins according to the USDA, which rounds out to about 2 billion pounds harvested altogether in the United States.

Instagram is a direct marketing tool

Yahoo Finance did a quick search for #pumpkin on Instagram (FB) nearly 12 million posts came up, additionally we searched for pumpkin recipes on Google (GOOG) revealing more than 300 million results.

“We are in the age of social media,” said Astill. “The economic research service recently published a report called ‘Trends in US Local and Regional Food Systems.’ And one of the trends they noted was direct marketing to consumers. And that's what a lot of the internet is, is direct marketing to consumers.”

Pumpkin picking has become an annual tradition for some families.

It’s not just pumpkin picking and cider donuts that lures families to this fall adventure. When I first started taking my son pumpkin picking, there were pumpkins on the ground for him to pick and a 2D wooden cow for him to take a pic with.

Now, 6 years later, we still go to the same pumpkin patch, but it now has countless activities: a big trampoline, a tricycle raceway, four corn mazes and the topper this year was a cannon shooting candy into a crowd of already hyped up kids!

But it also costs us double the price for admission. This year we paid $60 for a family of four and that didn’t include our pumpkins. The attractions are what help bring more families in, who stay longer and hopefully put more money in the wallets of those pumpkin farmers.

Pumpkins everywhere

“If you look historically, in 2002, about 5.5% of US farms were marketing directly to consumers. In 2017, that number had increased to 6.4%. And if you look at the value of sales, in 2002, there was about a billion dollars for those farms selling directly to consumers. In 2017, that had increased to $2.8 billion,” said Astill.

Pumpkins don’t just show up in our social media feeds. This time of year, pumpkin shows up in everything from our coffees like Starbucks’ (SBUXPumpkin Spiced Latte to our baked goods like Dunkin’s (DNKN) Pumpkin munchkins. Don’t forget pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie.

“Anecdotally, it does seem like there are a lot of things that are getting pumpkin-infused,” said Astill. “But it does seem like we've had an increase over the past 10 years.”

Tracey Marx Bernstein is a senior producer at Yahoo Finance.

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