This summer’s drought reduced the number and size of pumpkins in many growers’ patches, but some say the summer’s abundant sunlight also produced more attractive pumpkins, and growers who irrigated their crops have both better-looking and bigger pumpkins to offer.
It’s too early to tell whether the drought will affect the supply or price of canned pumpkin for holiday pies, said Roz O’Hearn, spokeswoman for Nestle USA, maker of Libby’s-brand pumpkin products. “Our harvest is under way now,” O’Hearn said in an email to The Columbus Dispatch. “The many thousands of acres of pumpkin we grow are located right in the midst of the drought-stricken area, 50 miles out in any direction from Morton, Ill., where we pack the pumpkins we pick.”
Libby’s did not irrigate its pumpkin fields, she said, so yields will be down this year. However, because this year’s high-quality pumpkins are producing more solids than usual, Libby’s is holding its prices with last year’s. “Our suggested retail price for our Libby’s 100 percent Pure Pumpkin is the same as last year: $1.99 for a 15-ounce can and $3.19 for a 29-ounce can,” O’Hearn said. “We hope we’ll be able to stay at this price, but we’ll know better as we move deeper into the harvest this season.”
Pumpkins have become a big business, said Richard Snead, an agricultural statistician at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Ohio field office in Reynoldsburg. Ohio’s pumpkins alone accounted for $16.6 million in farm value last year, according to the USDA. That represents more than 10 percent of last year’s U.S. pumpkin crop, Snead said.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service in Reynoldsburg does its pumpkin survey after the harvest, so it has no estimate yet on this year’s yield, he said. U.S. farmers have consistently planted more acres of pumpkins each year. Last year’s 51,300 acres planted was up 25 percent from 2000, according to USDA statistics. More farmers are growing more pumpkins because they are in high demand from consumers. Many growers also pair pumpkins with Halloween activities like taking hayrides to pick pumpkins, winding through hay mazes, and jumping around in bounce houses to generate more revenue. (Columbus Dispatch: www.dispatch.com)