Pumpkin problems for local growers mean fewer festivals this year

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

EVENDALE, OH (FOX19) - There are big-time problems with this year's pumpkin harvest. Instead of being a bumper crop, it's more like a bummer crop.

Plenty of pumpkins are in peril on farms all around the Tri-state. The hot weather and rapid ripening meant a lot of spoiled vegetables and spoiled plans for festivals that rely on that bumper crop, just in time for fall fun.

Every plant has four needs.

"Sun, soil, water and air, everything you eat everything you wear," said Sandra Murphy at Gorman Heritage Farm in Evendale.

But on farms this year, one critical element has been visibly absent and that's water.

Farm volunteer Georgia Crowell takes matters into her own hands, giving her portion of the garden a good dousing with water.

"I'm trying to come down every couple of days because I'm trying to get the fall vegetables started," Crowell said. "The cool weather crops now that the weather has turned."

But when farmers really needed the rain, back in the late Winter/early Spring, it was nowhere to be found.

"Very difficult," Murphy said about this year's crops surviving the hot and dry weather. "A lot of strange things are happening, the nuts are all ripening and falling to the ground and lots of things are maturing earlier and shutting down."

We found a pretty sad pumpkin that looked like someone had deflated it. But right next door, there were a handful of much plumper, light-colored pumpkins.

"These are Italian pumpkins," Vicki Foster said laughing. "It's just a different variety, they're a little bit different in color, more decorative than eating."

"One of our volunteer gardeners has some pretty good pumpkins, not a whole lot of them because the soil here at Gorman Farm is not terribly conducive to growing good pumpkins."

Once pumpkins are picked, they need to continue ripening up off the ground, on rocks, so they won't rot underneath on wet soil. Clearly, there's been no danger of that this year.

Last year, pumpkin retailers paid about ten cents per pound per pumpkin, but this year, they can expect to pay anywhere from 25 to 30 cents per pound per pumpkin, so if they're paying more, you will too.

"It's difficult in a really hot, dry year," Foster said. "Because pumpkins tend to grow early and stop growing, then they start to decompose early, so it's hard to keep them until Halloween."

Even on farms with rich soil, corn crops have gone bad and hay as well. Plenty of sun-scorched apple trees on the farm. Bummer crops for sure.

"Let's see what we have in here," Murphy said. "Oh! We've got some eggs!"

She grabbed a handful of eggs from the henhouse. But even the chickens, she said, are feeling the heat.

"There's a green one, a white one and a brown one," she said holding the eggs in her hand.

They tend to lay fewer eggs in extended hot weather. Sunflowers though, she said, are doing surprisingly well

"It's maturing kind of early," Murphy said holding a sunflower plant in her hand. "Earlier than we thought."

While a lack of water can be stressful on the trees, Murphy said the heat does help to concentrate the sugars in the apples, which makes for a sweeter fruit.

So, there is at least one benefit to all of this heat. Still, many area pumpkin farms have canceled festivals for this year. The Gorman Heritage Farm's pumpkin festival will go on, because they buy pumpkins from a special OSU Pumpkin Research facility up in South Charleston, OH, not far from Wilmington. The pumpkin varieties are hearty and grown in the best conditions by scientists. Gorman said they try to keep their prices low as well, working under a special deal with OSU.

To learn more about their Sunflower or Pumpkin festivals this season, long onto:


Another helpful link to pumpkin patches all over southern Ohio is:

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