Pumpkins in abundant supply for family farm and Morton festival

By Marshanna Hester

September 9, 2013 Updated Sep 9, 2013 at 11:06 PM CDT

MORTON, Ill. -- Lifting a giant pumpkin isn't an easy feat for anyone.

Luckily for John Ackerman, owner of Ackerman Farms in Morton, all of his pumpkins aren't giants.

The farm grows 160 different varieties pumpkins, gourds and squash that come in all sizes, colors and textures.

"It's a great year to have pumpkins because a dry year means there is less disease and you don't see rotted pumpkins and you see a lot of them," he said.

A full patch of pumpkins means easy picking and filling up a flatbed in 15 minutes.

It's this niche market Ackerman says that keeps his family farm going, especially when his corn and soybeans are suffering.

"To have pumpkins we can sell every year and the community can help us prosper in this way is huge," he continued. "It keeps a small farm viable."

Ackerman's passion will be visible among the carnival rides at the 47th Annual Morton Pumpkin Festival.

The farm decorates the grounds and sponsors the kids pumpkin decorating contest.

This year's festival theme is Pumpkin Carnivale.

"There are pumpkin beads and special foods," said Jennifer Daly, Morton Chamber of Commerce executive director. "There will be Pumpkin Jambalaya, which is delicious, and that's at the Pumpkin
Grille this year. We're also doing a pumpkin king cake at the Sweet Shoppe."

A New Orleans band will also bring the Mardi Gras flavor to the festival, which organizers say attracts up to 70,000 people.

"Many of our restaurants here in town have their very best days in sales during the pumpkin festival, their very best sales of all year long," Daly said.

Two family-friendly experiences of which everyone can own a piece.

To learn more about the festival, go to www.mortonpumpkinfestival.org.

To learn more about Ackerman Farms, visit www.ackermanfarms.com.