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Published: Tuesday, 10/5/2004

Jack-o-lantern pumpkin prices near last year's at area growers

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Don Baker and Jennifer McCabe shop Tom Strain & Sons market, where the price is 20 cents a pound. Don Baker and Jennifer McCabe shop Tom Strain & Sons market, where the price is 20 cents a pound.
WADSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge

Hurricane-spurred rains may have damaged pumpkin crops in some states, but adequate yields locally will help keep prices for fall's decorating mainstay about the same as last year's, some local farmers say.

At Tom Strain & Sons market in Toledo, for example, pumpkins for carving are 20 cents a pound again this year. The Strain farm this year has 15 acres of pumpkins, which it sells wholesale as far away as New York as well as in its Hill Avenue store, said Tom Strain, owner.

"Crop-wise, it's about average," he said. "I think there's enough to go around."

Both Ohio and Michigan are big pumpkin producers, ranking third and fourth, respectively, nationwide last year behind No. 1 Illinois and No. 2 California.

Ohio raised nearly 109 million pounds of pumpkins in 2003, and Michigan harvested 77 million pounds.

Jan Miller, a member of the family that runs Bennett's Orchard in Whiteford Township, Michigan, said she had larger-than-average pumpkins on her six acres devoted to the crop. But the pumpkins inexplicably ripened three to four weeks early, she said.

"I don't know how many will actually make it to Halloween," Ms. Miller said. "I'll probably end up losing half of it."

Bennett's Orchard bumped up pumpkin prices a bit this year because of the crop loss, with pumpkins suitable for carving jack-o-lanterns ranging from $3 to $5 instead of $2 to $4, Ms. Miller said.

Across Ohio, cool August temperatures and excessive moisture helped spur various pumpkin diseases, some of which hurt only foliage on plants, but the state should have a good harvest, according to Mac Riedel, an Ohio State University plant pathologist.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 acres of pumpkins are grown in Ohio, generating about $25 million a year locally and from southern states where they are exported.

Heavy rains in the last few weeks haven't helped the local crop, but they haven't been hit as hard as those in the Carolinas and New York, said Mr. Strain of Tom Strain & Sons.

Pumpkin prices are the same this year as last year at Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon, with those suitable for carving going for $4. Prices range from 25 cents for mini pumpkins to $50 for 250-pound giants, said Trisha Truman, who works on the farm owned by her parents, Paul and Cheryl Fleitz.

The farm's dozen acres of pumpkins remained disease free, and this year's cool and wet weather helped produce a nice crop, Mrs. Truman said."I can't say it's the best, but I'd say it's definitely a good one," she said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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