Tanaka Farms’ Pumpkin Cannon can shoot a 10-pound pumpkin 300 feet.

Behold, the great flying pumpkins of Irvine

by TOM BERG

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … 10-pound pumpkin?

Look up while visiting Tanaka Farms and you might see a plump squash sailing through the air. Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. It’s the Pumpkin Cannon, and it’s become a must-see fall event.

The 6-foot cannon fires pumpkins into a nearby hill, where they splatter to cheers from onlooking kids and adults.

The boom can be heard from across the farm, but it doesn’t take much to launch pumpkins.

The cannon uses about 80 pounds per square inch of compressed air – about the same as the water pressure at your home – to shoot pumpkins 200 feet, but that’s not the limit of its range.

“The record is 300 feet, but we haven’t gone full max yet,” says Kenny Tanaka, a fourth-generation farmer. “It can go much farther.”

Tanaka Farms has been a staple of Irvine for several decades. It’s family-run with roots going back to the early 1900s, when Tanaka’s great-grandfather immigrated to California from Japan. The current location, near Strawberry Farms Golf Club, opened in 1998 and is full of family events, like pick-your-own strawberry tours, a corn maze and, of course, the Pumpkin Cannon.

“It’s such a great activity at the farm,” Tanaka says. “Kids really get a kick out of watching these pumpkins fly. And they just compost back into the ground. It’s natural fun.”