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Pumpkin crop squashed by weather

Yields are down, sizes are smaller and prices could be higher, some growers are saying.

Farmer Len Burger points out the variety of pumpkins he has been able to grow during a difficult growing season on his Drums farm.

Times Leader Staff Photo/S. John Wilkin

Adverse growing conditions this summer have resulted in smaller pumpkin harvests throughout the region, a factor that could reduce supplies at stores and increase prices.

Brian Campbell, who grows 220 acres of pumpkins in Columbia County, said the lack of rain in August occurred when pumpkin plants pollinate. A lack of rain prohibits pollination, which means fewer pumpkins in the field, he said.

“Because of that, we didn’t see the yield we normally do in the northeast,” Campbell said. “Pumpkins will be short on supply and they will cost maybe an extra dollar each.”

Drums farmer Len Burger planted 5 acres of pumpkins this summer to sell at his stand. They have a good shape and strong stems, he said, but like Campbell’s, Burger’s fields produced less this year.

The summer and early-fall weather represented some challenging conditions for pumpkin growers, Burger said.

“The dry spells in the summer kept the yield down a bit, and then we had wet weather. If you didn’t spray them, that dampness will bring blight and disease,” he said.

A supply shortage isn’t what Bill Sheehy, owner of Dundee Gardens in Hanover Township, wants to face this time of year.

Sheehy’s business sells an average of 35 tons of pumpkins every fall. Farmers from Williamsport to Plains Township supply Sheehy with pumpkins, and they all faced adverse growing conditions, he said.

Many of the farmers along the Susquehanna River lost their entire crop during the flood in June. Those on higher ground were faced with the dry August weather followed by extended periods of rain reduced their pumpkin production.

As a result, Sheehy is encouraging people to buy their pumpkins early.

“We expect a tremendous rush just before Halloween, and the selection might not be as good later on because the farmers pick their best pumpkins first,” Sheehy said. “All of our suppliers said the weather in the summer, contrary to last year, really cut into their crops.”

Sheehy has opened several of his refrigerated warehouses to store pumpkins, insuring he has enough for sale up until Halloween.

While some growers are faced with smaller harvests, Nescopeck Township farmer Harry Roinick Jr. is the exception to the rule.

On Roinick’s -- aptly named Pumpkin Hill -- his 11-acre pumpkin crop is not only bountiful, but large.

Large as in 40 to 70 pounds each.

“I’m having a hard time finding small and medium sizes. They’re all bigger than normal,” Roinick said. “I have no idea why.”

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