DARKE COUNTY — Linus wannabes sitting in pumpkin patches this Halloween may find slimmer pickings in their quest to greet the “Great Pumpkin.”
Ohio State University Extension Educator and pumpkin crop expert Jim Jasinski reported that Ohio’s pumpkin crop is down an estimated 20 percent versus the usual amount.
With an average of 7,000 acres of the crop, Ohio is one of the top producers of the large, carving type of pumpkins, usually ranking between third and fifth in the country.
“The farm gate value of Ohio pumpkins can be as high as $15 million to $20 million annually, providing a substantial late-season cash influx to most farm operations,” Jasinski said.
Pumpkin growers in the northern part of the Buckeye State were most affected by the heavy rains early this summer, coupled with a dry August.
“A wet spring and early summer delayed seeding past the optimal planting window, which is early June to late June or early July,” he said. “Sporadic heavy rains flooded fields and drowned out many pumpkin seedlings around the state, and then most of the state experienced near drought-like conditions from mid-July through August.”
Despite the drop in numbers, pumpkin buyers should not expect a huge hike in price.
“Prices might be slightly higher, but more likely prices will remain the same and the fruit will be slightly smaller,” Jasinski said. “The prices I’ve seen at the big-box stores are comparable to what I’ve seen in the past three to five years. But if you haven’t gone to your local pumpkin patch yet, my advice is to not wait until the last minute and shop early for best selection.”
In Darke County, pumpkins remain seemingly plentiful, though the size of pumpkins may not measure up.
At Brumbaugh Fruit Farm in Arcanum, one employee reported, “We’ve had a decent crop, and the prices are pretty much the same.”
However, Scott Downing, owner of Downing Fruit Farm, an apple grower in New Madison, reported that while his pumpkin prices versus last year remain the same, pumpkin buyers may not get the size or quality to which they’ve grown accustomed.
“We’re down about 50 percent this year,” he said. “We got flooded out on quite a few of them.”
Downing said the farm replanted pumpkins after the summer flooding but experienced less-than-ideal results.
“The pumpkins just aren’t as big as last year,” he said. “Because we had to replant, they didn’t have as long of a growing season.”
Sam Custer, educator at the Darke County Extension, said that locally, however, the dropoff in the number of pumpkins should not be a cause for major concern for “Jack O’ Lantern” season.
“Probably not too much on their price because people are only buying a couple,” he said.