Pumpkin outlook puzzles Va. growers
RINER, Va. — The nation’s pumpkin patch is a puzzle for producers this year as their crop is nearing harvest. Weather, pests and markets are part of the picture. They differ greatly from last year.
This is the news members of the Virginia Pumpkin Growers Association got Sept. 5 during a field day here. Last year the industry was plagued by rain, fog and the pests that go along with such weather. This year is just the opposite: hot dry weather and a new set of pests. Added to this early development of pumpkins in some places and wholesale customers wanting their pumpkins sooner.
Deer seem to be the primary enemy of the pumpkin patch this year. Sue Bostic of Joe’s Trees in Craig County reported she was overrun with big bucks because they had used a Kill Permit to help control the deer population by downsizing the number of doe.
She is now thinking of just building a deer fence.
Susan Sink, at Sinkland Farm in the New River Valley for years said she is getting a crop damage permit to help deal with the problem of deer in her fields.
The general consensus at the gathering at Brann-King Farm was the pumpkins are ripening earlier than usual.
“It’s the earliest we’ve ever pulled them,” Kelli Scott, Montgomery County Extension agent, said. “We’re meeting demand for early pumpkins. We’ll see how it works out.”
“It takes a good two weeks until we get into them,” Danny Neel with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said when asked for a report on the crop. “We could stand a cooler season.”
Scott noted that pulling the pumpkins so early in the fall holiday season may affect their shelf life.
Producers seemed to agree that many are being harvested too soon and may not make it to either Oct. 15 or Halloween.
Wal-Mart stores in the New River Valley had asked Brann-King to begin delivering the pumpkins the second week of September.
The farm had several gooseneck trailers loaded and ready to roll before the field day.
Drought is playing another part in the overall picture.
A producer from Tazewell County said it was dry there and in neighboring Russell County. He said it was dryer here than at his home farm.
The dry weather across the area has been spotty. It follows an incredibly wet planting season that caused producers delays and other problems planting pumpkins.
The weather was making individuals try to decide what chemicals to use, how much and when.
This depended on problems they were expecting or hoping to avoid.
Weather is a major factor across the nation, the growers said.
They are waiting to see how the wet summer in the Midwest has affected its pumpkin crop.
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