FarmLife FIVE: Fall 2012

This issue: A cornucopia of fun fall facts.

By Des Keller | Photos By Jamie Cole

Freezing temps aren't great for fall color.

Freezing temps aren’t great for fall color.

Fall Color

• 45 degrees F. Early autumn evening temperatures below 45 degrees F but above freezing (32 degrees F) generally produce the most brilliant leaf colors. That assumes that there have also been an abundance of warm sunny days leading up to those autumnal temperatures. During spring and summer, leaves manufacture most of the food necessary for a tree’s growth, according to Howie Neufeld, a plant physiologist at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Known as The Fall Color Guy, Neufeld says the food-making process occurs in cells that contain the pigment chlorophyll. This gives leaves their green hue. The leaves also contain other pigments, yet they are masked by the chlororphyll. In the fall, leaves stop their food-making process and the chlorophyll breaks down. As the green disappears yellows and other pigments may appear depending on chemical changes. (



•  10.8 billion. The number of cranberries consumed in the U.S. each holiday season—nearly two berries for every person on Earth. Dutch and German settlers to North America nicknamed the fruit “crane berry,” because the pale flowers of the plant resembled the head and bill of a crane. It is one of only three fruits native to North America and grew wild on long-vines running through sandy bogs and marshes. According to officials at Ocean Spray, more than 120,000 people call their consumer helpline annually for recipes, brochures and help (


Crop Yields

• 83.98 million. Acres of corn harvested in the U.S. last year. According to USDA (, nearly 111 million acres of corn was harvested in the U.S. in 1917. The latter total for corn is the highest on record in the U.S. Of course, yields have improved greatly. In 1961, the average corn yield was 62.4 bushels/acre. In 2011 the average yield in the U.S. was nearly 150 bushels/acre. In 1961 there were more than 27 million acres grown to soybeans, with an average yield of 25.2 bushels/acre. In 2011 there were more than 73.6 million acres grown to soybeans with an average yield of more than 41 bushels/acre.



• 280 million. That’s the number of turkeys sold for Thanksgiving in the U.S. every year. Ironically, turkey wasn’t even mentioned in the best account of the first Thanksgiving (Mourt’s Relations: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth by Edward Winslow) but likely caught on due to its abundance in New England. Winslow did refer to “wild fowl” but that may have meant duck, geese or other birds. Most likely the pilgrims did eat a lot of venison and shellfish in general and probably ate much the same on the first Thanksgiving.


Halloween Spending

• $72.31. The amount the average American spent on Halloween in 2011 on decorations, costumes and candy. Total Halloween spending, according to the National Retail Federation, was about $6.8 billion last year ( The survey, conducted by BIGResearch, found that 161 million Americans planned to celebrate the holiday—the highest in the survey’s nine-year history. According to the survey, per person spending on Halloween was $66.28 in 2010. Until the second half of the 19th century, the celebration of Halloween—an offshoot from Christianity’s All Saints Day on Nov. 1 and believed to have originated from the Celts harvest festival of Samhain—was pretty limited in Colonial New England because of rigid Protestant beliefs, but was much more common in Maryland and further South (