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Pumpkin crop prospered from rainy summer

Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 7:53 PM
Last updated 8:41 PM
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A rainy summer likely means you’ll see lots of nice, plump pumpkins this fall.

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Jace Parrish stocks pumpkins at Good Earth Produce and Garden Center in Augusta. The rainy summer provided a healthy crop.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Jace Parrish stocks pumpkins at Good Earth Produce and Garden Center in Augusta. The rainy summer provided a healthy crop.

In Hillsdale, Mich., the perfect amount of rain fell on the Amish farm that supplies Good Earth Produce and Garden Center in Martinez with truckloads of healthy pumpkins.

“For our specific location, it was a great year for pumpkins,” said Good Earth’s manager, Mike Paxton. “Probably one of the best I’ve seen in the past few years.”

Pallets of large pumpkins could be seen under a large metal shed. Paxton said they will keep in shady conditions until well after Thanksgiving so long as they are
not cut open.

“Tell your kids to carve on the day before Halloween,” he said. “It will still stand up straight, and it’s not going to be as much of a fire hazard because there’s still plenty of moisture inside.”

Good Earth specializes in selling fresh local produce, but Georgia’s climate is not very friendly to pumpkins.

After 10 years of trying, though, Iris Eskew and her husband, Rusty, say they have figured out how to make it work.

“The way we plant, we have hedgerows,” said Eskew, the director of Graystone Ranch Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center.

They have been able to successfully cultivate 10 acres of pumpkins in strips shaded by tall trees on the wildlife reserve in Hephzibah.

Typically, the primary sowing season is October through the first week of November, but this year’s cooler, wetter temperatures caused an earlier season, Eskew said. Most of the pumpkins have already been harvested.

“We were fortunate to have very mild temperatures and a lot of rain,” she said. “I’ve never seen weather quite like we’ve had this year. This is probably the best planting season we’ve ever had.”

Some of the pumpkins are sold during the ranch’s Fall Fest, which offers family activities such as hiking trails, a haunted hay ride, photos with a scarecrow and nighttime scary movies. The proceeds from the sale of the pumpkins, in addition to the $10 weekend pass to the ranch, are used to care for the more than 3,000 animals that live there.

But the Eskews don’t cultivate the orange gourds just for jack-o’-lanterns.

“Not only do we plant pumpkins for the public, but also for the deer,” Iris Eskew said.

Deer love pumpkins, she explained.

“We finally had to fence in the ones we wanted to sell,” she said.

Pumpkin patches will start cropping up at churches across the area this weekend. At least three, St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in North Augusta, Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans and Marvin United Methodist Church in Martinez, buy pumpkins that are planted and harvested by the Navajo tribe in New Mexico.

“The Indians plant and grow the pumpkins and pick them. That gives them jobs and supports them. Then we sell the pumpkins,” said Beth Miller, the chairwoman for the committee that organizes St. Bartholomew’s Pumpkin Patch. “The money that we get from selling the pumpkins goes to the church’s outreach efforts and missions.”


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