Cool, Wet Summer Hurts Pumpkin Crop

fromWYSO

It's been a wet and cool summer in parts of the Northeast and Midwest. For some, that's a welcome contrast to hot and sticky summers. However, the unseasonable weather has claimed a notable victim: the pumpkin. Maine's pumpkin harvest is expected to be off by 50 percent.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

If you live in the Northeast or Midwest, you probably had a cool, wet summer -and for some that was a welcome contrast to hot and sticky summers. Yet as we begin the month that includes Halloween, we're sorry to report that the unseasonable weather claimed a notable victim - the pumpkin.

Emily McCord of member station WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio reports on the fate of this year's crop.

EMILY MCCORD: I'm at Tom's Corn Maze in southwest Ohio and I'm hanging out with the pumpkin lady.

Ms. MARIE EBI(ph) (Tom's Corn Maze): You want to go to the pumpkin patch?

MCCORD: Yeah, that would be fun.

Ms. EBI: Okay. We can hop on my golf cart and go check things out.

MCCORD: She also goes by Marie Ebi. It's her job to decide what seeds to plant and figure out the layout of the pumpkin patch.

Ms. EBI: So you can see, there's a lot of pumpkins out there yet. It's just that I know the numbers are down. When we get in the area of the white ones, we see very few. And those, over the past few years, have really gotten to be a big seller, white pumpkins. People like those pumpkins.

MCCORD: Vanishing ghost pumpkins means some disappearing revenue too. Ebi says the harvest of some of her varietals is half of what it was last year. While much of Ohio appears to be on track for this year's pumpkin harvest, the weather has caused sporadic problems across the Midwest, especially for small growers like Ebi.

And in the Northeast it's been even more dramatic. Maine's pumpkin harvest, for example, is expected to be off by 50 percent.

Professor ELWYNN TAYLOR (Iowa State University): This happens maybe once in 10 years.

MCCORD: Elwynn Taylor studies climatology and its effect on crops at Iowa State University. He says some pumpkin producers are concerned.

Mr. TAYLOR: They're afraid that they are not only small but that they are not as robust as they should be, so they will not ship well nor store well.

MCCORD: He says cool weather can actually be very good for crops that take a long time to ripen, but it could be hard on plants that have a short window of time to mature.

Mr. TAYLOR: So we think it will work out well for the corn - not so well for the pumpkins.

MCCORD: Illinois produces one-quarter of the nation's pumpkin supply and the crop there looks pretty good, though it's likely you'll be paying a bit more for your pumpkin this year.

For NPR News, I'm Emily McCord.

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