Despite pumpkin shortage, local farms are fully stocked
October 13, 2010
Pumpkin lovers held their breath while national news headlines flashed across the country, warning of a pumpkin shortage several months back, but it looks as though local farmers have filled their barns to the brim with the round, orange squash.
The Lakes Region got lucky this past growing season, and while farmers faced the challenges of an early pumpkin season due to the heat and a potential drought, irrigation systems saved the day and saved the crop – the essence of a mid-fall season.
Rob Stephens, general manager of Moulton Farm in Meredith, said that while southern part of New Hampshire had a lower number of pumpkins this year, depending on the amount of rain, the northern part of the state made out just fine.
"This is one of the best crops of pumpkins we've ever had," said Stephens, who added that Moulton Farm has over 1,000 pumpkins. "It's been a much dryer growing season. Last year the growing season was tough. With wet weather, you can run into disease."
Stephens said when one farm has a good year, it usually means that other farms in the area are having a good year and are able to keep all pumpkins in house, selling the product right off the pumpkin patches.
Moulton Farm is offering over eight specialty pumpkins this year, including the typical pumpkin, great for carving out a Jack-o-lantern, as well as white, orange, green, and multi-colored pumpkins, blue-hued squash, and speckled gourds.
"Everything is fantastic. It's a great display and so much to choose from compared to last year," said Stephens. "The bulk has to do with the weather. We would definitely take a dry year since we have irrigation ponds. Sometimes pumpkins need water at the right times."
Moulton Farm is currently offering a small pick-your-own pumpkin patch, a mini pumpkin maze for kids, and a corn maze.
Stephens said these activities are especially great for school field trips and seasonal tour buses in the area.
The farm is also looking forward to hosting a Family Fun Weekend, planned for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 16-17, including a scarecrow contest, a magic show, and the popular "pumpkin drop" that Sunday at 4 p.m.
"We raise several hundred pumpkins up with a crane and drop them. It brings quite the crowd; a lot of people come to see it. We hold the pumpkins 150 feet in the air and it sounds like thunder when they drop," said Stephens.
Vicky Abbott, filling in for her son Chris Abbott of Abbott Farm in Tilton, said that with the help of her husband Roger, the family was able to pick the last of their crop Columbus Day weekend.
"We had seven acres of pumpkin and winter squash. We had no problems with pumpkins this year," said Abbott. "We thought we would have a shortage because of the drought, but we watered them and they came through."
She said the farm faced a few issues before producing beautiful, plentiful crops, including the challenge of properly watering pumpkins once the vines wrapped around each other, and attempting to keep pumpkins in tip top shape after they popped up much earlier in the season due to the hot weather.
"You can't leave full grown, ripe pumpkins on the patches. We had to pick them early and just picked the last of them because of the threat of frost," said Abbott.
Abbott Farm has a large variety of pumpkins in different sizes and different colors including classic sugar pumpkins, which she said are best for baking pumpkin pies.
She said the farm also tried to keep the prices down. The largest pumpkin, called the "Gladiator," goes for $7 and the smallest pumpkin, a "Jack be little," goes for 75 cents.
Martina Howe of Beans & Greens Farm stand in Gilford said while the Lakes Region did not appear to be hit the hardest with a shortage this growing season, a lot of local farmers in New Hampshire and New England have still faced difficulties.
"There are a lot of problems out there this year," said Howe, referring to a Vermont farmer and his thousands of pumpkins that washed down the Connecticut River after heavy rain fall last week.
On the other hand, Howe said it appears as though Lakes Region farmers had the opposite problem, trying to avoid a potential drought with the use of irrigation.
"It's better than flooded pumpkins," said Howe. "No matter what the area, it is almost always about weather."
Howe said there were a few issues with certain sized pumpkins at Beans & Greens, but there is an abundance of the popular sugar pumpkins.
"We have sugar pumpkins: five pumpkins for $5. We have some amazing deals," said Howe.
The farm is currently offering a variety of pumpkins and gourds in all shapes and sizes.
While some think sugar pumpkins are best for pies, Howe begs to differ.
"You can bake with any pumpkin and turn it into a pie with different spices," said Howe.
Since the pumpkins popped up early in the season, costumers may not be able to pick them right from the patch, as is the situation with many local farms, but they can pick them from the stand.
"It was really hot this summer, so things grew really fast," said Howe.
Beans & Greens will also be holding their first annual pumpkin lighting in Gilford on Saturday, Oct. 23, with pumpkin carving tables, a bonfire and music.