For over 40 years, the Great Pumpkin Carve has been an annual institution in Chadds Ford. Over 60 artists gather to turn giant pumpkins into works of art. Past designs have included everything from simple etchings with sayings to elaborate trees to spooky faces.
Before the artists can get to work, one local farmer has to grow all of those pumpkins. For many years, that farmer has been H.G. Haskell III. An owner of Hill Girt Farm and SIW Vegetables, both in Chadds Ford, Haskell’s family has been farming the land for over a century.
His grandfather started with dairy cow farming and grew award-winning flowers, which were recognized at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Haskell changed the farm when he took over with his siblings in 1986, by growing vegetables. Today, he uses about 50 of their 60 acres for growing produce, including pumpkins. “Everything is planted by hand, picked by hand,” says Haskell, noting the exception of sweet corn.
At Hill Girt Farm, pumpkin planting begins in mid June and Haskell grows between 200 and 250 of the prizewinner pumpkins used for the Great Pumpkin Carve. Hosted by the Chadds Ford Historical Society, the event takes about 75 of those pumpkins for the artists and demonstrations. The remaining pumpkins are sold at SIW Vegetables, which has a full farm stand across from the farm. Shoppers can find everything from bicolor corn to tomatoes to flowers. “We grow 50 different kinds of vegetables. Pumpkins are just the exclamation point at the end of the year,” Haskell says, noting that his biggest crops are corn and tomatoes.
Prizewinner pumpkins are ideal for the creative carving competition since they grow to about the same size and smoothness and are adapated for “any kind of weather,” as Haskell puts it. The pumpkins can top out at 250 pounds, but most of those used for the Great Pumpkin Carve weigh around 150 pounds.
In addition to the prizewinners, Haskell grows about five acres of smaller pumpkins for the farm stand. Those include the field trip variety, as well as gladiators, apogee, summit and blanco, commonly used to decorate and carve at home.
Now that the growing is finished, Haskell can enjoy the event. This year’s Great Pumpkin Carve will take place from Oct. 19-21 at the Chadds Ford Historical Society. On Oct. 19, the artists will set to work carving, and on the remaining days, the pumpkins will be lit and displayed and winners will be crowned.