Possible pumpkin shortage in Essex County after wet season

Heading into Halloween this year, it could be slim pickings in local pumpkin patches.
McLeod Farms' pumpkin patch has 20 per cent fewer pumpkins this year. (Vince Robinet/CBC News)

Heading into Halloween this year, it could be slim pickings in local pumpkin patches.

At least two of Essex County’s pumpkin patches have fewer pumpkins year than last.

McLeod Farms in Cottam said this year crop is down 20 per cent. Wagner Orchards and Estate Winery has none at all.

Helen McLeod of McLeod Farms said a cold, wet planting season meant seeds went in late.

“When it started to warm up, it started to rain. And just when it got to point to get on field it would rain again,” McLeod said.

She said pumpkin seeds went in at the end of June, rather than the beginning.

“And that would have been the end, but the rain kept coming,” McLeod said.

This June was one of the wettest on record for this region. More than 150 mm of rain fell in the region. Normal rainfall is 89 mm in June.

Environment Canada says June was the wettest on record since 2008.

July had similar numbers. There was a record 21 rainy days and 262.2 mm fell in total. A normal July sees 81.8 mm of rain.

Standing water in some of the fields resulted in kill off, McLeod said.

“In some places, there’s not a plant at all, there’s nothing,” McLeod said.

“If they have problems, then everyone has problems,” Harold Wagner, of Wagner Orchards, said of McLeod’s. “They drain well out there.”

Wagner said his crop was in by June 3 but the fields were too wet to weed.

“We had no opportunity to cultivate and spray wouldn’t work. The pumpkins just got overrun,” he said.

Wagner normally plants “an acre or two” and produces “thousands of pumpkins.”

This year, signs and a voicemail on the farm’s answering machine warn customers of the pumpkin shortage.

Wagner has trucked pumpkins to his farm during previous shortages.

“But that doesn’t work. No one wants to buy a pumpkin from a crate. They want to go out to the pumpkin patch and pick them,” he said.

McLeod said she overplants every year, so she said there will “still be loads of pumpkins.”

The smaller crop hasn’t resulted in higher prices, McLeod said.

“And on a positive note, I’ve got more apples than I’ve ever had,” Wagner said.


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