Farmers, sellers report healthy pumpkin harvest

Farms, sellers report strong pumpkin crop

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Joy Smith shops for pumpkins, hay and cornstalks to decorate her porch. Cooler, less humid weather in the second half of summer helped the pumpkin crop in Georgia.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Joy Smith shops for pumpkins, hay and cornstalks to decorate her porch. Cooler, less humid weather in the second half of summer helped the pumpkin crop in Georgia.

On a weekend trip to the north Georgia mountains, Sid Mullis saw the leaves turning and, with Halloween approaching, plenty of pumpkins in the patch.

“The pumpkins looked good to me,” the Richmond County extension agent said.

Farmers and sellers are reporting a bountiful harvest this year that will make many jack-o’-lanterns and pumpkin pies.

“It’s been fairly decent pumpkin growing weather,” said Clark Macallister, the extension agent for Dawson County, home to many of Georgia’s largest pumpkin farms.

Cooler, less humid weather during the latter part of the summer were ideal growing conditions, he said. Farm irrigation helped the fields survive drought conditions.

Good Earth Produce and Garden Center on Davis Road ordered five acres of pumpkins, gourds and squashes from an Amish farm in Hillsdale, Mich., which is one of the top pumpkin-producing states. Two tractor-trailer loads were delivered in mid-September, and a third comes this week, owner Rick Catts said.

“They are better than past years,” he said.

The Michigan farm harvested 80 percent of a full crop, better than initial estimates that dry weather would keep it to 30 percent, Catts said. Drier weather helped produce a perfect pumpkin for carving.

“When you have a pumpkin that’s been saturated with water, they tend to rot easier,” Catts said.

In 2011, heavy rain from Hurricane Irene spoiled a majority of the pumpkin harvest in northeastern states. Midwestern states have reported shortages for the past several years, even causing a severely limited canned pumpkin market.

According to the U.S. De­part­ment of Agriculture, the top pumpkin-producing states are Illinois, California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Mich­igan. Ninety percent of the pumpkins grown in the Uni­­ted States are raised within 90 miles of Peoria, Ill.


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