It has been more than 80 years of farming that includes an annual pumpkin crop in Ripon with pumpkins of every description that can be seen ripening in the fields every October with the approach of Halloween.
One longtime family farming operation, that currently employs from 200 to 500 workers, was launched in 1922 by Henry Van Groningen, Sr., and is now run by grandchildren out of the corporate offices at French Camp, Lone Tree and Jack Tone crossroads.
The Van Groningens continue to pride their farm for the development of hand-cultivated pumpkins and various fall décor items that they say are perfect for harvest time. They offer various sizes, shapes, and colors that they say are perfect for cooking, baking, carving, and for decorations around the home.
All sizes of pumpkins come from the Van Groningens’ fields. They include traditional pumpkins, Big Mac Pumpkins, White Big Mac Pumpkins, White Pumpkins, Fairytale Pumpkins, White Fairytale Pumpkins, Cinderella Pumpkins, Mystical Jack Pumpkins, Wee Be Little Pumpkins, Orange Miniature Pumpkins, Mighty Miniature Pumpkins, and Lil’ Tiger Pumpkins.
Hot weather can be traumatic for the young plants where extreme heat at the blooming stage can cause the flowers to drop before the pumpkin formation is complete.
The senior Van Groningen arrived in the U.S. from his native Netherlands in the early ‘20s and first farmed in Minnesota. He then moved to Hanford where he started a dairy. It was in 1929 that the family moved to Ripon. With his four sons he started a second dairy and by 1939 he planted row crops.
Brothers Art and Henry took over the family farm at the end of World War II – a partnership that lasted for some 25 years. It was a period in the family history where another generation was anxious to get involved in the Van Groningen enterprise that has developed into a successful growing and packing operation.
Returning from their military service Art’s two sons Dan and Robert displayed their interest in joining the business – younger brothers John and Marvin followed their lead. The four brothers worked passionately together and were later credited for contributing to the ultimate success of the Ripon farming operation.
It is now Art’s grandchildren who are key in Van Groningen and Sons, Inc. in Ripon and Manteca that includes Bryan, Ryan, Jason, Paul and Monica.
The firm’s website notes they get a number of calls annually asking for recipes for making pumpkin pies. “For all of those brave souls planning to do some scratch baking, here is a recipe you can use to make your very own: Pamper’d Pumpkin Pie!” Roasted pumpkin seeds are also a satisfying and healthy treat, the site suggests.
A recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds:
Ingredients include one cup shelled, raw pumpkins seeds, two teaspoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon ground thyme, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees
• Rinse seeds, and pat dry
• Toss together seeds and remaining ingredients in a bowl
• Spread in a single layer on an aluminum foil-lined or parchment paper –lined baking sheet
• Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toasted
• Cool completely in a pan for about 15 minutes
• Yields one cup. Total baking time some 40 minutes
The Van Groningen trademark is not only tied to pumpkin varieties but others as well including sweet corn, almonds and melons.