Pumpkins aplenty

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

A year after drought undercut Ohio's pumpkin yields, the state is on track for a plentiful crop of the orange gourds.

Across the state, growers report high yields, good color and few weather-related problems. This is different from the country as a whole, where there is evidence that extreme weather has hurt the crop in some regions. "We're right on target," said Ethel Sullivan of Circle S Farms in Grove City.

Ohio growers generally plant their crop between Memorial Day and July 4, and then harvest beginning in mid-August. So far, yields are much better than last year, said Brad Bergefurd, horticulture specialist at Ohio State University Extension. "Mother Nature has been good to us," he said.

Pumpkin yields were way down in 2008, at 15,500 pounds per acre in Ohio compared with 30,500 pounds the previous year. Bergefurd attributes that to a lack of rain. He expects this year's number to be much closer to the 2007 level.

Ohio's pumpkin harvest represented 8.7 percent of the U.S. total last year, making it the fourth-highest-producing state, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Even if the yields fall short of expectations, growers say they are impressed with the quality of this year's crop, with a strong orange color, sturdy stems

and few problems with plant diseases. "Everything you want in a pumpkin, we're going to have this year," Bergefurd said.

Lisa Schacht, co-owner of Schacht Farm Market in Canal Winchester, said the crop is "beautiful" and plentiful enough that there should be no concerns about an inadequate supply. She expects wholesale prices to be about the same as in recent years, from 16 cents to 20 cents per pound.

"Overall, the crop looks pretty good," said Jim Kuhlwein of Kuhlwein's Farm Market outside Hilliard. "The numbers may not quite be there," he said, "but the quality sure looks good."

For many growers, pumpkin sales are part of a larger business that involves various types of produce, hayrides and special events. Kuhlwein's business includes a corn maze, haunted trail and petting zoo in addition to pumpkins.

Through Oct. 31, Circle S Farms has "Fall Fun Days" featuring a corn maze, homemade doughnuts and a trip to the field to pick your own pumpkin. "This is my 29th pumpkin year," Sullivan said. "If I had a real job, I could retire."