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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Brother and sister Elizabeth and Shawn Prathan shop for pumpkins in one of Schmidt's patches.

WEST JORDAN — It's 8 a.m. Oct. 30, and the countdown to the hour all pumpkins expire has begun.

As Richard Schmidt loads another truck full of his Halloween squash, he is well aware that by the end of today the search for the perfect jack-o'-lantern will end. He's already harvested most of his 35 acres of pumpkins, but the field he's standing in is still sprinkled with orange squash, and until Nov. 1, it's all for sale.

"People will be buying (pumpkins) until 2 p.m. tomorrow," Schmidt said Tuesday at his West Jordan pumpkin stand. "People will come flying in here and buy a pumpkin, and it'll be history in 24 hours."

For Schmidt, the last days before Halloween are always the busiest. Forget the hundreds of cars that have lined up at his stand at the corner of 2200 West and 9000 South in West Jordan. Schmidt's been busy keeping 19 local grocery stores stocked with the orange gourds.

Derick McLam, a produce manager at Harmon's in Draper, says selling Schmidt's pumpkins has become a standard for the store.

"We try to work with him as much as possible to get whatever he can grow," McLam said. "They're a great family to work with."

Schmidt started growing pumpkins by a fluke about 16 years ago, when he realized he needed to plant something other than corn. After his pumpkin plants matured and Schmidt looked over what he had farmed, all he saw was a crop that looked like a "sea of gold."

He has grown pumpkins ever since.

This year, Schmidt has delivered at least four rounds of pumpkins to eight Harmon's grocery stores and 15 different Albertsons in Salt Lake and Davis County — and it has kept him busy.

"Everybody is running out of pumpkins, and we're going like crazy," Schmidt said from his cell phone Monday after dropping off a load at one Harmon's grocery store, on his way to another.

Schmidt grew an estimated 525 tons of pumpkins this year, which surprised even him, a third-generation West Jordan farmer whose family has been in the area since 1911. Schmidt's grandfather grew grain and sugar beets, and when Schmidt's father took over, he grew vegetables and celery.

These days, Schmidt and his son, Ryan, the only other full-time family employee, specialize in sweet corn and tomatoes, but they aren't sure how many more years they'll be in business.

The family sold their farm land recently to be developed, and Schmidt and his son have been farming their vegetables, hay and barley on about 130 acres of leased land.

"We're on borrowed time," Ryan Schmidt said.

Still, as development creeps closer around the Schmidt's crops, Richard Schmidt says he doesn't mind the nearness of civilization. He even likes it.

A steady stream of cars drives by the pumpkin patch on 9000 South, but being so close to the road probably helped the family grow and sell more pumpkins, Ryan Schmidt said.

"We've carved out a niche here, and it's been good," Richard Schmidt said. "I had a lot of options, and I could have done a lot of things, but I chose this."


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