Picking Pumpkins and Apples at Von Thun Farms

By Lauren Wanko

Seemingly countless pumpkins cover Von Thun Farms patches, ready to be picked. Four-year-old Luca’s convinced he found a winner.

“I got a big pumpkin,” he said.

It’s that time of year, when school kids and families visit the farm in droves in search of the perfect pumpkin or shiny apples. Fortunately for farm manager Bob Von Thun, this year there’s plenty of produce to go around. He’s relieved. In April, the fourth generation farmer wondered if his apples would make it.

“This season we thought we lost most of them back in April. We had a tremendous freeze for three or four nights down in the low 20s but they came out of it and we have a surprisingly good crop, a few varieties are a bit on the lighter side but overall a very good crop,” he said.

In New Jersey, apple utilized production is estimated at 36 million pounds, totaling more than $32 million.

Next to the apple orchards, 4-year-old Evan is searching for his pumpkin. This summer’s dry conditions, mixed with just the right amount of rainfall, created ideal growing conditions for the crop, says Von Thun.

Von Thun Farms started growing pumpkins on just a few acres of land in the ’70s. They soon realized the overwhelming interest and now plant pumpkin seeds on about 30 acres each year.

Planting season starts in late May or early June. The type of seed determines the size of the pumpkin.

“It depends on the variety of the pumpkin. They’re planted anywhere from two feet to maybe four feet apart in the row and then the rows are anywhere from six feet to 12 feet apart, so they need a lot of space. The pumpkin vines get really, really big,” Von Thun said.

If there’s enough moisture during planting, the seeds sprout four to five days later, says Von Thun. About six weeks after that, a green pumpkin appears. By Labor Day, the iconic fall crop is orange and ready for the harvest season — just in time for the farm’s famous six-acre corn maze, created to look like baseball player Mike Piazza.

“We plant upwards and from side to side and it kind of makes a graph and then we work with a company in Utah that comes out and they flag it all out,” said Von Thun Farms Manager John Vanliew.

As for the pumpkins and apples, the season ends after Halloween.