The pumpkin season is over just one month after completing harvest, despite attempts by consumer magazines to promote the vegetable as a year-round food.
Company owner and director David Bowman inherited the business at Spalding, in Lincolnshire, from his parents. It all started when they scattered a few pumpkin seeds in among the marrows they were growing to supply Branston Pickle 35 years ago. The pumpkins fetched £1 each at the local market, so they turned over half an acre to production alongside their runner beans, courgettes and red cabbage.
The turning point in mass production came 25 years ago when Tesco agreed to stock the vegetable and ordered large volumes. Now the farm grows nothing but pumpkins on 324 acres, having moved out of town. Bowman sold the prime central land "for serious money" in 1997 and invested in a pumpkin-friendly temperature-controlled packhouse with 10,000 wooden storage bins.
It's no longer just a Tesco business - all the major retailers sell Bowman's whole pumpkins, though he deals with intermediary suppliers rather than direct. He produces about two million pumpkins per year and estimates that the market is growing at about 10% per year, though he expects it to reach saturation point soon.
He stands his ground over price, despite pressure to cut margins. "Retailers have only got one price and that is down on last year," said Bowman. "But they get told that I don't have any for sale at that price.
"They also say what size pumpkins they want, but they quickly learn that they have to adjust to the crop. It's no use saying they want 24cm when there are only 22cm available because growing conditions haven't been favourable."
A small proportion of the vegetables go to processors to be made into soup and there is a demand for pumpkin seeds. There is also a healthy export market to Holland, France and Ireland, but once November arrives the UK market has moved on to Christmas fare.
Bowman's 65 part-time staff dwindle to six in November and all are laid off by New Year, when he takes a holiday. Although he has no desire to promote pumpkin eating as a year-round activity through celebrity chefs and recipe tips, he donates thousands of pumpkins to local schools in support of the annual Spalding Pumpkin Festival. But he is resigned to the fact that pumpkins will never be as popular in the UK as in the US, the vegetable's native country.