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Growers say now is time to buy pumpkins

Madison Mathews • Oct 3, 2012 at 10:04 PM

This year’s pumpkin harvest is one of the worst David Thompson has seen in his more than 40 years of growing the seasonal product.

It wasn’t this summer’s drought that yielded such a terrible harvest, however, it was the amount of rain that fell toward the end of the summer season.

“We had way too much rain. I had about 23 or 24 acres of pumpkins and winter squash. I lost about 75 percent of all the vine crops just from rain. These hard rains beat the blooms off of them and the stems stuck up where the blooms was,” Thompson said.

After the constant rainfall caused a lot of his crop to rot off the vine, Thompson, owner of David Thompson’s Produce, 251 Tenn. Highway 107, Jonesborough, planted about 6 acres of pumpkins late in the season to make up for what he lost.

Those pumpkins have started to come in.

With October just beginning, Thompson said he should have plenty of pumpkins for customers who are looking to decorate for Halloween — as long as they pick them up by the end of this week.

Jonesborough’s National Storytelling Festival and Erwin’s Apple Festival should bring in some heavy traffic this weekend, Thompson said.

“So far I’ve had enough to meet demand but with the later ones coming on, I hope I can meet demand for the rest of the season. I look for everybody else to run out of nice pumpkins early,” he said.

While there aren’t many pumpkin growers in the area, this year’s shift from extremely dry weather to extremely wet weather has caused some problems for farmers, according to Anthony Shelton, agriculture extension agent with The University of Tennessee Washington County Extension office in Jonesborough.

“In this area I would assume pumpkins are pretty much kind of along their schedule. They might be delayed a little bit from the simple fact that it was real dry at one point, but it’s still undetermined,” he said.

Elizabethton’s Beck Mountain Corn Maze & Entertainment Barn, 110 Corn Maze Lane, has seen most of its pumpkin crop come in fairly well this season.

Desie Gentry, who operates the popular attraction with her husband, Curtis, said this summer’s erratic weather didn’t affect their pumpkins very much.

“With the rain, you just keep the plants from getting mold and stuff. We order mold and mildew-resistant seed,” she said.

Gentry said they typically harvest anywhere from 900 to 1,200 pumpkins each year, and this year doesn’t look like it will be very different.

But like Thompson’s crop, Gentry said they won’t have pumpkins for long, especially as their annual haunted attractions pick up steady foot traffic over the rest of the season.

“Ours will be gone. We have a lot of business that comes up here from North Carolina in Avery County,” she said. “They won’t have much to pick from if they wait.”

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