Stutsman County farmer writes book on selling 60,000 pumpkins to build 25 churches

When it starts getting to be pumpkin harvest season, it is hard to beat a record-breaker grower from Buchanan, North Dakota.

Pumpkins on the Erickson farm in Stutsman County.
Contributed / Cheryl Erickson
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Buchanan, N.D. — Cheryl Erickson not only grew a million pounds of pumpkins over the years, she has used her profits to change towns thousands of miles away.

"I did it a third of my life, so it is really in my blood," Erickson said.

After 21 years of growing pumpkins, Erickson finally wrote a book about it called "Missionary Pumpkins."

"I guess everyone knows me as the Pumpkin Lady," Erickson said.

"It is very labor intensive work," Erickson said.


It started in 2000. It was a bad summer on the farm.

"My husband said, 'why don't you experiment with specialty crops?' And I settled on one acre of pumpkins," Erickson said.

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It steamrolled from there. Erickson's pumpkins eventually started going to Hornbacher's and Hugo's stores.

One reason grocery stores loved to sell Cheryl's pumpkins: She and her church wash every one of them by hand.

"Somebody said, you first planted seeds in the ground, now you are planting seeds in people's hearts," Erickson said.

Erickson set the profits from her pumpkin sales aside, and 60,000 pumpkins later, she had raised enough money to build 25 churches in India. She's even been there to see the fruits of her pumpkin harvest.

"I guess the best word for me is addicted," Erickson said, laughing.

It used to cost $3,000 to build a church. Now it takes $30,000, another reason Cheryl decided to write a book to raise money, a way to keep her mission going.


"Just for the fun of it, I figured how many pounds of pumpkins I lifted and conservatively, a million pounds," Erickson said.

To order her book, send an email to

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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