From the Farm: John Ackerman

Agriculture

MORTON, Ill. (WCIA) — John Ackerman raises pumpkins on the east edge of Morton, some years for the Libby Canning Plant and some years for the public. This year he had more agritourism pumpkins.

“It was a great crop. We were really blessed this year,” Ackerman said. “We raise over 160 different kinds of pumpkins, gourds and squash, and it was a very wet year. I was pretty worried; pumpkins like it dry. They are incredibly efficient in getting moisture and their leaves are so big, they tend to hold moisture. I was worried, I shouldn’t have been, we really lucked out. It’s been a great year.

There were some threats of phytophthora, but Ackerman’s crop was untouched by the disease.

“I very really lucky. Phytophthora is one of the bad diseases,” Ackerman said. “When that hits, it can be devastating. We were just lucky. The rains, even though they were kind of heavy, they were timed well enough that we weren’t hit with that.

Ackerman’s pumpkin production began after the low commodity prices in the 1980s.

“We tried several things,” Ackerman said of early production. “Fresh cut flowers, sweet corn, we finally hit on pumpkins and this is our 22nd year of being open to the public.”

Agritourism takes a special personality. It’s extra risk-management and farmers have to keep a lot of things in mind.

“It’s different. I farmed with my father and then by myself for a lot of years,” Ackerman said. “When you open up to the public, you really want to have people come on to your property. You have to have that kind of personality and I think we very much enjoy the people that come out here.”

Farmers opening their farms to the public have to make sure the public is happy, which means the public can’t see anything they are going to complain about.

“There’s more and more of that,” Ackerman said. “Our demographic are animal lovers and food lovers and grandparents and just nice people. I really have the best demographics for retail, but there’s always going to be somebody.”

We’ll talk more with John Ackerman about pumpkin production on Midwest Ag This Week, which can be viewed at 4:30 a.m. or 6:30 p.m. on Saturday or 5:30 Sunday morning on WCIX49.

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