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Area producers pleased with plentiful pumpkins

Crops flourished as perfect weather squashed problems

  • 05b1abby

    Abby Rae Ekey, 3, struggles to lift a pumpkin while picking them at Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon. Last year, Ohio farmers planted 6,800 acres of pumpkins and harvested 6,100 acres of them. This year looks even better, growers say.

    THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
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  • 05b1saman-2

    Samantha Berlincourt of Oregon helps her son Jesse, 2, pick out gourds at Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon. With a colder, wetter summer, many of the pumpkins are turning just now. Consumers will find top-quality pumpkins at prices no higher than last year.

    THE BLADE/KATIE rAUSCH
    Buy This Image

  • 05b1aubree-1

    Aubree, 1, gets in close for a kiss with a barn cat while her mother, Chelsie Cornelius, of Oregon, selects pumpkins at Fleitz Pumpkin Farm. Ohio’s pumpkins are mainly used for Halloween decorations. Other gourds are used to make that pumpkin pie.

    THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
    Buy This Image

05b1abby

Abby Rae Ekey, 3, struggles to lift a pumpkin while picking them at Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon. Last year, Ohio farmers planted 6,800 acres of pumpkins and harvested 6,100 acres of them. This year looks even better, growers say.

THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Pumpkin lovers rejoice.

The gods of the gourds have blessed Ohio with perfect weather this year, ensuring that the 2014 crop will be worthy of the Great Pumpkin himself.

“This may be one of our best years we’ve ever had,” said Jim Jasinski, who is a pumpkin expert and agricultural official with Ohio State University’s extension service.

“We really didn’t have the high temperatures that we had last year. It was perfect conditions,” Mr. Jasinski said.

In 2013 Ohio pumpkin farmers produced nearly 50,000 tons of the gourds, worth about $15.4 million. All of the state’s crop is used for Jack-o’-lanterns or Halloween purposes.

05b1aubree-1

Aubree, 1, gets in close for a kiss with a barn cat while her mother, Chelsie Cornelius, of Oregon, selects pumpkins at Fleitz Pumpkin Farm. Ohio’s pumpkins are mainly used for Halloween decorations. Other gourds are used to make that pumpkin pie.

THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Another type of gourd is usually used for pumpkin pie and other food products.

Ohio is the third biggest pumpkin producer behind Illinois and California, controlling about 10 percent of the crop’s estimated $150 million in annual production nationwide.

Last year about 6,800 acres of pumpkins were planted in Ohio with about 6,100 acres, or about 89 percent, of the planted acreage getting harvested.

Usually Ohio’s pumpkin farmers harvest 10 to 20 tons of the orange gourds per acre, but in 2013 the yield was closer to 8¼ tons, Mr. Jasinski said.

This year’s crop should produce a much higher yield per acre, Mr. Jasinski said, because temperatures this summer stayed cool’ and it seemed as if just the right amount of rain arrived when needed but produced no field flooding, which can cause diseases.

“There really were no major issues,” said Mr. Jasinski, who works out of Urbana in southern Ohio and raises a yearly test crop of pumpkins in the southwest section of the state. “The crops in the south are very good and further north in the state early rain delayed some planting, but overall we’re going to have pumpkins a plenty in the north.”

05b1saman-2

Samantha Berlincourt of Oregon helps her son Jesse, 2, pick out gourds at Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon. With a colder, wetter summer, many of the pumpkins are turning just now. Consumers will find top-quality pumpkins at prices no higher than last year.

THE BLADE/KATIE rAUSCH
Enlarge | Buy This Image

An abundant crop means consumers will find a choice of excellent pumpkins at prices no higher than last year.

“It’s a super year for pumpkins. Everybody’s got a great crop,” said Paul Fleitz, owner of Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon. “The price is the same as always. The price didn’t go up,” he said.

As in past years, Mr. Fleitz said he is charging about $4 for a pumpkin the size of a basketball.

Jeff Rhodes, owner of Rhodes Garden Fresh market in Toledo, also said he is charging between $3 and $4 for a pumpkin that is the size of a basketball.

“The giant stuff in a big bin — you’re looking at paying $12 to $20 for the huge pumpkins. Regular size are in the 3-to-4-dollar range where they’ve been for the last few years. And you can get small ones for a dollar,” Mr. Rhodes said.

“Everything I’ve seen indicates this is a pretty good crop. The quality seems to be very good and the prices are fairly average. I think everybody is going to benefit this year. There’s plenty of pumpkins for the retailers, the farmers, and the customers,” he said.

Steve Polter, owner of Polter’s Berry Farm in Fremont, said the biggest problem he has this year is trying to get all of his plentiful pumpkin crop harvested.

“I’ve got a pretty big crop, and I’m just trying to get it all picked. My yields have been pretty good,” Mr. Polter said.

Mr. Polter said he has never seen better weather conditions for a pumpkin crop than those experienced this year.

“It was dry. It only rained twice in August and just four times in July. And when it rained, we never had a rain over an inch and a half,” Mr. Polter said.

“Frankly, these are the best yields I’ve ever had. Every acre looks good,” he added.

Crop prices aren’t bad either, he said. He has been selling his crop for nearly $110 a bin, which equals about 700 pounds of pumpkins.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2013 Ohio farmers averaged about $107.80 for 700 pounds of pumpkins.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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