4 Things To Do With Pumpkins

Sure, you know the round, orange gourds are great for making jack-o’-lanterns, but you may be thinking, what are some other things to do with pumpkins? As it turns out, there’s a lot!

But before we get to that, let’s talk when. Because pumpkins take 85 to 120 days to mature, May and June are considered the best time to start planting in order to have them ready by fall. You can even plant them as late as July, as the success of your pumpkin patch is largely dependent on your location and the weather.

When your pumpkins are finally ready for harvesting, it’s time to determine whether you’d like to sell them, make indoor or outdoor decorations, or even use them for cooking. If you’re not a harvester, consider visiting your local farm to purchase fresh pumpkins to achieve the same creative results.

In this blog post, Port Farms lists a variety of tips for ways you can use your pumpkins outside of creating the traditional—and still awesome—jack-o’-lanterns!

1. Roast the Seeds

When a pumpkin is ready to be harvested, the first step is to cut it open to remove the edible seeds. You can do so by using your hands, a spoon, or even an ice cream scoop. Once the seeds have been removed, separate them from the pulp, then wash and dry them (the drier, the better).

Pumpkin seeds laying out on a table and in a bowl.

The seeds should then be seasoned using herbs and spices of your choosing. We recommend a touch of olive oil to help crisp the seeds, as well as salt, garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper to taste.

After the seeds have been seasoned to your liking, put them in the oven for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees. The seeds should be tossed every five minutes to avoid burning either side. Once finished, set aside the seeds to cool, then enjoy!

The American Heart Association (AHA) has stated that eating pumpkin seeds or the seeds’ shells can:

  • Reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity (fiber)
  • Lower blood pressure and prevent migraines (magnesium)
  • Improve heart and bone health (magnesium)
  • Reduce inflammation (zinc)
  • Promote better sleep (tryptophan)

However, be mindful of the amount of seeds you consume! Pumpkin seeds are high in calories and fiber, which can lead to feelings of discomfort. The recommended serving size is about one-quarter cup.

2. Decorate Your Home

There’s no denying that pumpkins make incredible decorations, but they’re not only just for a singular holiday such as Halloween. Along with jack-o’-lanterns, there are quite a few eye-catching objects you can craft out of pumpkins, such as:

  • Bird Feeders
  • Candle Holders
  • Planters
  • Colorful Centerpieces
  • Vases
  • Pumpkin keg
Two pumpkins on a table for decoration.

Keep in mind that if your pumpkins are whole, they will last longer. If they are cut into or gutted, they will be harder to preserve and have a shorter shelf life. Steve Reiners, a horticulturist at Cornell University, has said that “if the pumpkin was healthy when picked and diseases were controlled in the field, the pumpkin can last 8 to 12 weeks.”

3. Create Food and Drink

According to Hubbub, a UK-based organization advocating for greener living, over 18,000 metric tons of pumpkins are thrown away every year, equivalent to 39,683,207 pounds or 360 million portions of pumpkin pie. While you can certainly buy canned pumpkins in a grocery store, nothing beats fresh produce, so do not throw your pumpkin away after the holiday festivities have come to a close! Instead, use a whole pumpkin, or what’s left of your pumpkin after carving, to make fresh seasonal food and drink, such as:

Stuffed Shells
Seed and Nut Brittle
Hot Chocolate

4. Compost

Composting is the process of recycling organic material and allowing it to decompose naturally. Once the pumpkin has decomposed, you can use the material to enrich your planting soil with nutrients. To compost pumpkins:

  • Remove the seeds, as well as any other objects you may have inside
  • Find a designated place for your compost pile (in the shade is best)
  • Break the pumpkin into smaller pieces and spread it around the pile
  • Lightly cover the pumpkin with other compostable materials
  • Let nature do the rest
Various pumpkins being composted.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that the benefits of composting are:

  • Reduction of methane emissions
  • Reduction of the need for chemical fertilizers
  • Higher yields of agricultural crops.
  • Reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts
  • Remediation of soils contaminated by hazardous waste
  • Cost savings over conventional soil, water, and air pollution remediation technologies
  • Enhanced water retention in soil
  • Carbon sequestration

If you find that the quality of your pumpkin isn’t to your liking but don’t want to contribute to the growing number of food waste, consider composting your pumpkin!

Growing with Port Farms

At Port Farms, we understand the importance of making the most of the produce you grow. Whether that means composting, making crafts, or creating the next seasonal food item, there are a myriad of actions you can take to make sure that your goods don’t go to waste. For more information on growing or purchasing fresh produce, check out 5 Ways to Support Small Farms or visit our website and subscribe to our newsletter!

5 Ways to Support Small Farms and What It Means for the Local Economy

Between automation, big box stores, online grocers, massive agricultural companies, restaurant closers, severe weather caused by climate change, and plummeting commodity prices, operating a small farm—and navigating it through modern challenges and changes—is big work. In fact, the U.S lost more than 100,000 farms between 2011 and 2018. And the COVID-19 pandemic has now exacerbated the challenges.

However, there is evidence that suggests people are becoming more thoughtful about where their food comes from and how it gets to their kitchen tables. Further, people are being more mindful about spending locally and shopping small to support their community and local creators.

As a multi-generational, family-owned farm, we at Port Farms determined that it would be a good idea to look at the current landscape of local agriculture, provide a few ways for people to support local farmers, and highlight a few of the initiatives that we’ve taken to grow in this changing industry.

What is Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Farming?

Direct-to-consumer farming describes the process of customers purchasing their goods right from their local farmers, as opposed to purchasing produce from a grocery store. On average, direct-to-consumer sales typically occur within 100 miles of the farm. The benefits of direct-to-consumer farming include:

  • Fresher produce for consumers
  • Control over the price of produce
  • Lower debt levels for farmers
  • Less machinery and land required to achieve a certain level of sales
  • Higher survival rates for farm operations
  • Fueling the local economy

With the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, the popularity of direct-to-consumer farming has only increased. The direct-to-consumer model eliminates the excessive amount of interactions that others have with produce, supports the local economy, puts an end to the uncertainty behind where the produce comes from, and almost guarantees product freshness.

Produce at a Farmer's Market.

In a grocery store, many hands turn over and inspect produce. If the produce isn’t to a customer’s liking, the produce is then left to its container for the next person to touch and examine. Damages caused by handling and shipping to a grocery store can also impact a customer’s decision to purchase the goods because produce that is scarred or discolored is not desirable. It can also lead to the spread of germs. According to Feeding America, “52 billion pounds of food from manufacturers, grocery stores, and restaurants end up in landfills rather than kitchen tables.”

5 Ways to Support Local Farms

Farmers will always have competition with businesses that use mass production, but you can help decrease the divide between local and worldwide produce sales. Here are five ways you can support local farms:

1. Buy Direct, and in Bulk

Local First states that if you make purchases locally, $68 will stay in the community for every $100 you spend, whereas only $43 will stay in the community if you spend $100 at a non-local business. Making local purchases means that more of your money will go towards paying employee fair wages, generating jobs, funding local taxes, making investments in the community, and providing local services and supplies.

Buying produce and meat in bulk also requires less packaging. In turn, there will be far less plastic involved in the packaging process. Not only will buying in bulk save you a bit of money and provide you with a greater amount of goods, but it will also allow you to practice being environmentally friendly with little effort! In addition, you will be saving farms that have entered crisis mode due to being unable to sell their produce, meat, and milk to restaurants that have closed down due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Buying in bulk also makes it easier on meat producers due to the fact that COVID-19 has drastically slowed down processing production.

Woman purchasing goods at a Farmer's Market.

For those who reside in Pennsylvania, you may also choose to purchase produce that has been marked with a “PA Preferred” logo. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture recognizes the logo as a “resource for finding locally grown and processed agricultural products from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” Rest assured that when you come across this logo, you are directly aiding farmers in need of local support. The website also identifies what produce is in season, where to buy local produce, and advocates for programs such as Farm to School that benefit both farmers and the local community.

2. Spread the Word

If you stumble across a local farmer’s market or an event at a farm, don’t keep the news to yourself! Consider spreading the word to family, friends, and even coworkers. Marketing by word of mouth is a great way to support local farmers because it is cost-free, and it is especially beneficial to those who rely on direct-to-consumer methods to get by.

Additionally, word-of-mouth marketing is one of the best ways to increase sales given that consumers trust the ratings and words of other consumers. Nielsen has stated that “92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.” You can help support your local farmers just by offering a recommendation alone! If you want to become even more involved, consider joining your local food council or attend local board meetings to advocate for the inclusion of locally-grown produce.

3. Eat Seasonal Food Whenever Possible

Two women apple picking at a farm.

Seasonal food refers to the produce that is bought and consumed around the same time that the goods are harvested by farmers. Choosing to purchase and consume food that is in season:

  • Helps support local farms
  • Funds the local economy
  • Allows farmers to inform you of how the food was grown
  • Helps the planet by reducing the amount of miles the produce must travel
  • Reduces the need for chemicals and pesticides
  • Reduces expenses due to the abundance of supply

Eating seasonally goes hand-in-hand with eating locally! Not only will eating seasonally help guarantee the freshness of your produce, but it will also be healthier for you too.

4. Corporate Events and Educational Programming

The next time you’re thinking about hosting a corporate or educational event, consider a local farm! From organizing team-building activities to relaxing picnics, a farm is large enough to accommodate just about any of your business needs. You can support the farm further by offering to pay for any catering services they may offer. Beyond business gatherings, a farm’s barn may be the perfect place to host your next graduation or birthday party, given they have the right amenities. If you haven’t heard, barn weddings are quite popular!

Farms are a great place for kids as well. School tours at local farms can offer insights into farm life, animal education, and even teach children about the importance of locally-grown produce at an early age. What’s more, kids can learn about the beneficial health impacts of locally-grown food as opposed to food that is mass produced and travels miles to reach their dinner plate!

5. Request Local Products at Local Institutions

Hospitals, schools, grocery stores, food banks, and local governments typically have a high food demand. These institutions can be contacted directly, and in doing so, you should request that they reach out to local food councils to source their food locally. These institutions may benefit greatly from locally-sourced food given that the produce will be more fresh and positive relationships may be built within the community. In turn, the local economy will experience a boost given that a cycle has been established between supply and demand; the farmers can depend on their consumers to purchase their goods, and the consumers will receive locally-grown produce and fuel their community in doing so.

Fresh produce at a grocery store.

Project PA and PA Preferred are two great Pennsylvania-based resources to get started with incorporating local produce into your local institutions.

About Port Farms

The Port Farms family is no stranger to the life of farming. In fact, we’ve been tilling soil and feeding northwest Pennsylvania since 1897. In addition to growing and selling produce, we’re a family-friendly farm that prides ourselves on offering seasonal activities to fuel our local economy, provide ample amounts of fun, and generate revenue to keep our business thriving.

How do we do it? Our professional and creative team offers wedding packages throughout the summer and fall months, and both the wedding and the reception can be held right here at the farm! Our outstanding team also organizes corporate and educational events for businesses and schools, prioritizing team-building fun, safety, and even providing farm-fresh meals.

Farm Fun

At Port Farms, we know what it takes to be a business that relies on local support, which is why we host many activities to account for every season! From hosting birthday parties and school tours to campfires and horse-drawn rides, we have it all. Visit our site to browse what we have to offer or check out our blog for more information!

Finding Your Green Thumb: A Beginner’s Guide to Gardening

Don’t let the size of your yard determine whether to start a garden. It doesn’t matter if you have acres upon acres of land or a postage stamp-sized yard; where there is dirt, there is a way. From planting a small herb garden to cultivating a healthy crop of fruits and veggies, there are bountiful ways to discover—and grow—your green thumb.

If you’re unsure of where to begin, you’ve come to the right place. Port Farms’ Five-Step Beginner’s Guide to Gardening will help you get growing in no time!

1. Know What You Can Grow

When beginning your gardening adventure, there are a handful of essential details to consider. First, you will want to think about three key things: Where you live (and what can grow best there); the size of your yard (and the amount of sunlight it receives based on where it’s situated); and the realistic amount of time you have to dedicate to gardening. 

Second, consider reflecting on your garden’s purpose. Ask yourself: Will my garden be for sustenance? Decoration? Dedicated to producing occasional spices?

Gardening for sustenance is relatively common, which is why we’ve provided a list of fruits and vegetables that grow well according to their specific season:

TomatoSweet PotatoesFigsCauliflower
HoneydewCornKey LimesGreen Onions

For additional information, visit Seasonal Food Guide. They provide a comprehensive list of what produce is available in the U.S. according to different months of the year. You can find what’s in season near you by selecting your state, the month, and what produce you are trying to grow! Even if your food isn’t in season, you will still be able to select the produce and learn about its properties and uses.

Also, if you are planting a vegetable garden designed to feed your entire family, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Family Garden Planning Guide. The USDA claims that the estimated pounds needed per person (which is determined by the crop) divided by the approximate yield (lbs) per foot of row will equal the amount of rows (feet) to plant per person. When creating your garden, keep in mind that some vegetables take up more room than others! The same can be said for flowers, fruits, and shrubs.

2. Determine Your Gardening Spot

There are three baseline ingredients to any successful garden: dirt, water, and sunlight. While you can improve the quality of the dirt by incorporating store-bought fertilizers, starting a compost pile, and increasing the amount of water your garden gets with a hose or sprinkler, you can’t easily increase the amount of sunlight a particular area gets, so it’s crucial that you choose carefully.

Furthermore, avoid areas with lots of trees and shadows cast from the house. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, a south-facing garden (south side of the house) is your best bet. Conversely, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll want a north-facing garden.

A gardener digging soil and planting seeds.

On average, plants must have exposure to at least six to eight hours of sunlight. However, some vegetables such as peppers, corn, and tomatoes do well in direct sunlight for longer periods. If your yard lacks sunlight, consider veggies like cabbage, carrots, and root onions that do well with less light.

You’ll want to avoid any areas of your yard that are too moist from lack of drainage and air circulation. While water is essential, too much can cause mold, mildew, and fungi to grow.

If, for whatever reason, you’re digging deep (putting in sprinkler system lines, improving drainage, etc.), be sure to check with your area about who you need to contact before starting the project. For instance, in Pennsylvania, you need to call 811 to request a utility company representative to examine the area before you dig.

3. Choose Your Plants

After doing your research, choosing your location, and preparing the soil, you can select your plants and produce then begin planting!

As for flowers, Hydrangeas are great for curb appeal: they can be planted alongside the lining of your house or even in front of the home as colorful, decorative bushes. The same can be said for Vinca, Delphinium, Clematis, and Lily of the Valley, all of which are white flowers that may have a welcoming and calming effect. If you’re looking for something that demands a little attention, plant one of the following red flowers: Roses, Pentas, or Zinnias!

A gardener holding a basket of blue Hydrangeas.

If it’s your first time growing produce, there are various fruits and vegetable options we recommend trying to plant first, such as:

  • Bell Peppers
  • Blackberries and Raspberries
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Garlic
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini and Squash

You don’t have to begin with this list. If you’re confident in your tools, soil, and gardening knowledge, you can try to grow just about anything! Furthermore, farm with your family in mind. There are various plants that may be toxic to children and pets (if you have them), so remember to do your research before planting!

4. Get Your Gear

Gardening doesn’t have to be a backbreaking process. With the right gear, you’ll better enjoy your time outside. There are six main gardening tools you should purchase or have on hand:

  • Gloves: to keep your hands safe and free of dirt
  • Shears, Loppers, or Pruners: to trim plants and manage growth
  • Rake or Garden Hoe: to smooth and break up dirt and soil, optimal for seeds
  • Garden Fork or Spade: to move larger quantities of soil around
  • Garden Hose or Watering Can: to efficiently water plants
  • Rich Soil: to give both plants and produce the proper nutrients they need

When planning on creating a large garden, you may also want to invest in a rototiller to turn over more significant amounts of soil. If you’re intimidated by the thought of having to purchase a rototiller, these machines are often rentable from local hardware stores and tool lending libraries.

5. Regularly Tend to Your Plants and Remove Any Weeds

After planting your produce or flowers, you must maintain them. Weeds will inevitably begin to grow along with your plants, and sometimes, they can have a negative effect on your produce. In addition to stealing water, sunlight, and other nutrients from your plants, weeds can bring about diseases and unwanted insects that spread them. To remove weeds, you can dig them up with your gardening tools or purchase eco-friendly weed killers. Laying down Weed Guard is also an effective way of preventing weeds from sprouting!

A shovel in the ground digging out weeds.

Along with weeds, you will also want to watch out for any animals! To dissuade animals from eating or destroying your plants, you can build a fence, use an animal-safe repellent, or invest in a motion-detecting spray that scares the animals away.

Gardening with Port Farms

With these helpful tips from the experts at Port Farms, you have all the tools you need to get started, so make your purchases and get to planting and growing that green thumb! But before you take off to get your seeds and plants, there’s one more thing to know: Spring began on March 20 and lasts until June, so NOW is the optimal time to start your gardening journey. Make sure to stay in touch by subscribing to our newsletter!