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Sensitive Season

Farmers: Pumpkin harvest mixed

October 4, 2009
By KAYLEIGH KARUTIS, The Leader-Herald

Farmers all over New England are reporting a poor pumpkin crop this year, but locally, farmers have mixed reviews.

Some growers in New England lost their entire crops of pumpkins. Rain at the beginning of the season waterlogged fields, killing seedlings. Because of the unusually damp weather, weeds and diseases spread, requiring some farmers to replant.

Locally, farmers have mixed reviews on the pumpkin harvest this year, but few had a devastatingly bad crop, growers said.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Emily Mornston of Amsterdam picks out a pumpkin from the selection at Karen’s Produce in Tribes Hill
on Wednesday.

For farmer Darin Blowers, his farm - Hickory Hill Farms in Fonda - had an abnormally good pumpkin harvest this season.

"Last year was probably one of the worst years I've ever seen, and this year is probably one of the best," Blowers said.

Blowers said he feels especially lucky his pumpkin crop, which is spread over 100 acres, did well this year because he knows many farmers across the state and in New England are having a difficult time.

"I'm very fortunate," he said. "I don't know why [the crop did so well this year], but I wish I did. That's the $1 million question."

Todd Rogers, who owns Rogers' Family Orchard in Johnstown, said he lost some of his crop to the cold, damp weather that plagued most of the summer, but was still able to harvest an adequate crop because he planted extra.

Rogers said rather than losing his pumpkins, his crop is just a bit later than it usually is.

Blowers agreed. His crop was one or two weeks behind schedule, he said.

Rogers said while he didn't do as well as he could have, the extra pumpkins he planted will prevent him from having a poor harvest.

"A lot of the plants didn't grow as well in the beginning, but we won't have any problems," he said.

Crystal Stewart, horticulture and agriculture educator and regional vegetable specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Fulton and Montgomery Counties, said some local farmers have had problems with their pumpkin crops, but the issues do not compare to the difficulties farmers had with tomatoes.

"With the tomatoes, we saw total devastation," Stewart said. "Pumpkins are mostly just not ripening up as quickly."

Other areas across the East had more problems than most farmers did locally. In Maine, the pumpkin harvest is expected to be off by 50 percent. Luckily, though, overall the crop is expected to be average in top pumpkin-producing states like Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, Ohio and Michigan.

Despite the wettest summer on record in Albany, Stewart said the cold weather had more of an adverse effect on pumpkin crops.

"Most of the bigger growers did well, but some of the smaller growers had a spotty harvest," she said. "We found the cooler temperatures had a bigger effect than the rain, though some in lowlands or near rivers had problems with flooding."

Though the pumpkin harvest may have been sparse weeks ago, it is now in full swing, Stewart said.

"The pumpkins are starting to [ripen], so if people still want them, there are plenty around," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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