Throughout the nineteenth century, the pumpkin had many symbolic meanings. It began to symbolize an old-fashioned way of life, a way to live off the land. As industrial agriculture began to spread, the pumpkin began to lose its marketability. Artists like Winslow Homer used it as a theme in paintings, Harper’s Magazine wrote about them, and romantic poems used them as subject matter.
Changing attitudes toward the pumpkin
The pumpkin has had a long cultural history in American life. Although it’s huge and of little practical value, the pumpkin has become an iconic figure that helps us understand trends and cultures. Although the pumpkin and squash are botanically identical, Americans started to distinguish the two during the nineteenth century. This led to many changes in attitudes toward the pumpkin.
Many towns are now celebrating pumpkin festivals, and not just on the Fourth of July. Pumpkins have become a staple of food and culture in communities that have no connection to large-scale pumpkin production. In Spring Hope, North Carolina, the annual Spring Hope Pumpkin Festival is one example of this. The town’s annual celebration draws on stories of American culture and the old, virtuous agrarian myth to celebrate the pumpkin.
Impact of industrial pumpkin production on small towns
When did industrial pumpkin production get started? In the early 1970s, a small town in Illinois named Morton was declared the “Pumpkin Capital of the World.” In addition to growing pumpkins, the town was also known for canning and processing them. Today, 85 percent of the world’s canned pumpkin is produced at the Libby’s factory in Morton.
The top six pumpkin producing states harvested more than 1 billion pounds of pumpkins in 2021. Illinois ranked first in both pumpkin acreage and yield, producing 652 million pounds. Other States, such as Indiana, Texas, and California, grew less than half that much. The smallest pumpkin producing State was Virginia, which produced less than a million pounds per acre.
Value of old pumpkins as a symbol of patriotism
The value of old pumpkins as a symbol of Americanism is not limited to Halloween. Its cultural meaning spans several centuries. In the early days of the United States, farmers and their families used the pumpkin for personal use. At that time, it had no commercial value. However, during the 19th century, transportation technology brought most farmers into the market economy. As a result, the pumpkin gained a new meaning. It was now considered a symbol of a simpler and more primitive time.
The value of old pumpkins as a symbol of America has risen over the past several decades. In addition to its historical value as a symbol of patriotism, they are prized for their aesthetic appeal. Today, they are used in many ways, from memorials and flags to decorations in homes.
Contribution of old pumpkins to landfill gas emissions
While pumpkins are a common seasonal decoration, they also contribute a significant amount of methane to landfills. This greenhouse gas has been responsible for increasing temperatures worldwide. While some people advocate for creative reuse of leftover pumpkins, others point to the environmental impact of discarded pumpkins.
It is estimated that about two billion pumpkins are sold each year in the United States, but only a fraction of them make it to the landfill. Each 100 pounds of pumpkins wasted releases an estimated eight pounds of methane, which is harmful to the environment. This is not even taking into account the emissions of transportation to landfills. In fact, it is estimated that as much as 40 percent of all food produced ends up in landfills. In addition to pumpkins, other organic food waste also contributes to methane emissions.