Consumers may have to settle for a good pumpkin this year, because great pumpkins will be in short supply.
Heavy rains in June and July appear to have affected this year’s pumpkin crop. The weather led to flooding in some northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan fields that stunted growth somewhat or created conditions conducive to fungus.
The crop will not be as large as 2012’s huge bounty, but area pumpkin farmers say prices likely will stay the same or rise only slightly. Selection may not be overly large, but it will be adequate, they added.
“It’s very spotty because of the big rains in early June and then July. A lot of the fields were damaged,” said Dan Gust of Gust Brothers Pumpkin Farm in Ottawa Lake.
“We’re not too bad here. Some gourds and squash were lost, but for the most part, we’ve got a pretty good crop,” he said.
Mr. Gust said he lost about one of his 26 acres to flood damage, decreasing his supply of gourds and squash, but his pumpkin crop remains good.
“The pumpkins are on a higher part of the field. Still, it’s not quite as good a crop as last year, but it’s pretty good,” Mr. Gust said.
In 2012, Ohio farmers had a bumper crop of pumpkins worth about $23.3 million. By comparison, the state’s 2011 and 2010 crops were worth $16.6 million each.
Mr. Gust said the 2013 crop isn’t going to be anything close to 2012, but it could be similar to 2011.
“Sizewise, we’re going to be off a little bit. Last year the pumpkins were huge, they were beautiful. We still have a lot of big pumpkins, but they’re not as plentiful,” Mr. Gust said. “The big carving pumpkins, there’s plenty of those, but those jumbos, they are going to be a little bit short in supply.”
Paul Fleitz of Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon agreed.
“Last year was the best year ever, and they just got massive in size. But this year there’s nothing to shout about,” Mr. Fleitz said.
“Our crop turned out real good. We missed some of the worst of the rains that other people had, so our crop ended up being pretty normal.”
But both Mr. Fleitz and Mr. Gust said that something about the weather or soil conditions this year led to fewer of the extremely large pumpkins.
“The giant ones didn’t get as giant as they usually do,” Mr. Fleitz said.
Mr. Gust said that his son, Jake, makes a hobby of raising gigantic pumpkins and usually produces about 15 each season. This year, he only produced six, although one is a whopping 400 pounds.
“Last year he had more of them. He also has a 200-pound greenish-gray thing. It’s really neat to see. He’s not sure if he’ll sell that one,” Mr. Gust said.
At Johnston Fruit Farm in Swanton, owner Martha Mora said her fields were hit by the heavy rains, but luckily, she said, the fields are made up of sandy soil so flooding was minimal.
“Our pumpkin crop is good. It isn't the best I’ve ever had, but it’s good,” Ms. Mora said. “We will probably be slightly down in both size and numbers.”
As a result, Ms. Mora said she had to raise her prices slightly to 27 cents per pound — up from 25 cents a pound last year.
Mr. Gust and Mr. Fleitz do not charge by the pound. Instead they sell pumpkins according to their approximate size.
A basketball-size pumpkin will cost between $2 and $4 this year, same as last year. A $4 pumpkin is about 20 pounds. A 200-pound pumpkin will cost about $25.
“Pricewise we haven’t changed much. The wholesale price is up a little bit,” Mr. Gust said, “but we’re about the same on price for retail customers.”
Most pumpkin farms started harvesting their orange-colored gourds between the first and third weeks of September. A good crop has been harvested thus far.
But Mr. Fleitz said this season could be longer than usual.
“We started harvesting around Sept. 1, but some of the plants are still pretty green. That’s pretty amazing,” Mr. Fleitz said. “I don't know if the weather conditions made them a little [different] this year or what, but some pumpkins ripened early and we still have bunch of green ones.”
Contact Jon Chavez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6128.