Are Pumpkins Actually in Short Supply This Year?

Pumpkin pie season is nearly upon us.

As we speed into the holiday season, I can't help but feel alarmed by a certain rumor I've been hearing. No, it's not a political conspiracy theory before the election... and it has nothing to do with the calorie count of my favorite Thanksgiving dish! It's much worse. There are murmurs sweeping the nation -- in the form of alarmed text messages, investigative Reddit threads, and whispers throughout grocery store aisles -- that there aren't enough pumpkins to go around this year.

It's important to note that a pumpkin shortage wouldn't just create a spike in poorly decorated porches. It would also limit the supply of pumpkin products, most notably the canned pumpkin puree we rely on for our three-month-long pumpkin pie-eating spree.

After hearing reports from loved ones about non-existent pumpkin supplies in grocery stores, I feared that the pumpkin shortage rumors were true. So, I set out for answers.

empty grocery store shelves
A familiar sight to many who've looked for canned pumpkin recently | Alex Bascuas/

My first instinct was to do what most of you probably just did: I asked my search engine if there was, indeed, a pumpkin shortage. In typical internet fashion -- I would know, because I'm putting you through the same frustration right now -- I didn't get a straight answer right away. But I did learn a few things that steered me in the direction of a conclusion.

Turns out, if you want to know about the pumpkin supply, you should direct your attention to Illinois. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the Prairie State harvests more than twice as many pumpkins as the next most bountiful state. In 2018, that resulted in over 500 million pounds of pumpkins grown in Illinois alone -- and nearly 80% of the acres responsible for producing those pumpkins are devoted specifically pumpkins that are processed into pie filling.

Even though every state has pumpkin farms, Illinois plays perhaps the biggest role in getting canned pumpkins into our greedy little hands. Another huge factor is the weather. If everything goes according to plan, the bulk of each year's pumpkins are available for consumption in October, but when the weather acts up, that can change. Too much rain can cause crops to rot, too little rain results in fewer (and smaller) pumpkins, and a cold spring season delays pollination.

Pumpkins growing
This is what a pumpkin looks like when it's not in a can! |

This year, some major pumpkin farms reported facing slight weather challenges, but nothing that would ruin our chances of finding canned pie by the time Halloween and Thanksgiving arrive.

According to Libby's, a leader in the pumpkin puree game, we'll see fully stocked shelves soon. "Due to weather conditions, our harvest was slightly delayed this year," Libby's brand manager Justin Corrado said on social media last week. "Timing is key when picking pumpkins to ensure maximum flavor - You can't rush Mother Nature! This will not affect the overall availability or quality of LIBBY’S pumpkin throughout the season."

He said that we can expect to see Libby's pumpkin on the shelves by mid-October.

So, finally, the conclusion! We will not be fighting other shoppers for holiday supplies this year a la Christmas With the Kranks. It's possible that, with more of us staying home and baking this year due to COVID-induced boredom, we jumped the gun a little and got excited for pumpkin pie before we normally would. Maybe we should've been patient. But honestly, at least our panic led to us learning a little about the lifecycle of pumpkins.

May we never take pumpkin puree for granted again.

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Kyler Alvord is a news writer at Thrillist. Find him on Twitter and Instagram. Or don't. It's really up to you.