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Farmers report 'beautiful, bountiful' Ohio pumpkin crop

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    Nadia Lama, 2, of Grand Rapids, Ohio, waits for her moment as she hangs out with a few of the pumpkins. Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon, Ohio on Monday. Fall-themed items from gourds to hot Vidalia onion relish to a five acre corn maze are a part of the scene on the Oregon farm.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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  • BIZ-pumpkin09p

    Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon, Ohio, on Monday. Fall-themed items from gourds to hot Vidalia onion relish to a five acre corn maze are a part of the scene on the Oregon farm.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
    Buy This Image

  • BIZ-pumpkin09p-2

    Ashley Schank, left, and her husband Nate Schank help their son Owen Schank, 2, as he puts a squash into the wagon. The Schanks hail from Sylvania Township.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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  • BIZ-pumpkin09p-5

    Mindy Flack holds her son Jack Flack, 2, as he feeds a goat on the farm at Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon, Ohio, on Monday. Fall-themed items from gourds to hot Vidalia onion relish to a five acre corn maze are a part of the scene on the Oregon farm.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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    Frankie Anderson, 6, of Rossford, in the Kids' Fun Barn at Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon, Ohio, on Monday.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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Northwest Ohio’s pumpkin crop this Halloween season is turning out to be the opposite of scary.

July rains followed by a dry August and September have put wide jack-o’-lantern grins on the faces of the region’s growers, whose pumpkins are turning out to be firm, bountiful, bright orange, and classically round.

Customers will be smiling, too, because growers say there’s no increase in prices. With a beautiful, bountiful crop, some growers are even lowering prices.

“It was a real good year. We had a real good crop. We didn’t have any floods, so the pumpkins didn’t have diseases,” said Paul Fleitz, owner of the Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon.

“The giant ones didn’t get quite as giant as last year, but they still got pretty big,” he said. “Really, the pumpkins, squash, and gourds all did good.”

Customers, Mr. Fleitz said, will find a standard basketball-sized carving pumpkin priced around $4 to $6, same as the last several years.

“A couple of years ago there were many pumpkins we simply had to leave in the field because there was something wrong with them. But this year, we’re harvesting pretty much everything,” he added.

Ohio State Extension Service horticulturist Brad Bergefurd, who is based in Piketon in southern Ohio and has his own pumpkin farm in Wilmington southeast of Dayton, said southern Ohio is having “one of the best crops we’ve ever had.”

Some Ohio farmers experienced some flooding, and a few others had their crops hurt by a fungus called Downy Mildew, a disease that first spread across northern Ohio. But Mr. Bergefurd said this crop could be above average when complete.

Last year Ohio pumpkin farmers farmed 93 million pounds of pumpkins, putting the state third in production behind Illinois and California.

“The sizes — they are 10 to 15 percent bigger. We’re having some trouble getting the bins packed,” he said. “We had some rains in July, but throughout August and September the weather was dry and that meant higher quality and some decent yields,” he said.

At Johnston Fruit Farm in Swanton, owner Martha Mora said her crop ended up being all sizes, varieties, and colors.

As a result, “We actually are charging a little less this year because of this crop,” she said. Prices for a basketball-sized pumpkin are $4 to $5, a 50-pounder about $15, and some too big to weigh are $20.

“We have a lot of larger jack-o’-lanterns that people are looking for,” Ms. Mora said. “The fields are just full of pumpkins. … It is a nice crop, a gorgeous crop.”

The Polter’s Berry Farm in Fremont is a wholesale operation, raising pumpkins to sell to retailers.

Owner Steve Polter said the size of the pumpkins was larger than most years, but “I don’t think we have the number of medium-sized pumpkins this year that we normally get.”

Chain store retailers like the medium-size pumpkins, Mr. Polter said.

“So that’s been a challenge,” he said. “But we do cater to farm markets more, and they tend to gravitate towards the larger pumpkins, so we’re having a pretty good year.”

Like others, Mr. Polter credits the early July rains followed by two months of mostly dry weather.

“Pumpkins are tricky. If they’re distressed, they’ll drop blooms. It was dry in August and that probably caused some of them to drop blooms,” he said. “But I think all in all we’re having a pretty good year. The size is big, and the quality is excellent.”

Pumpkin farmer Dan Gust, of Gust Brothers Pumpkin Farm in Ottawa Lake, Mich., also was concerned that the wet period followed by a long dry period might cause the crop some distress.

“We were pretty worried all summer. It was dry then wet, then dry again. But it turned out way better in quality and size than we thought,” Mr. Gust said.

Giant pumpkins aren’t quite as good last year, Mr. Gust added, but all jack-o’-lantern sizes are good.

“And they’re good quality,” he added. “They seem really hard. They're going to hold up really well.”

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

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