Mother Nature punks pumpkin supply

SadJackolantern_123RF9906700_BLOGWith Halloween just days away, crowds are flocking to farms around the nation to pick out their own pumpkins or soon to be jack-o’-lanterns. But this year, challenging weather conditions have cut the supply of pumpkins — not only for recreational carving but for the canned pumpkin puree market as well.

As explained in a recent article, heavy summer rains in parts of the Midwest and elsewhere have left many farmers short on pumpkins including the nation’s leading pumpkin producing state, Illinois. In fact, the rainy weather in Illinois has cut the crop by half compared with 2014. Other states are experiencing similar shortages including California, where it’s no surprise that the drought has squeezed their pumpkin crop.

With less pumpkins to go around, the canned pumpkin puree industry — which uses a different type of pumpkin than the traditional variety often used for carving — is also being affected.

This industry consumes about half of the pumpkin produced in the U.S and the shortage is leaving producers worried that their supplies will not last much longer than Thanksgiving — the most popular time of the year for pumpkin pies. According to those from the industry, canned pumpkin producers often have a cushion to carry them into the next year, but that will not be the case this year.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, pumpkins are a $145 million industry. While this is a small amount compared to other produce, research has shown that the demand for pumpkins is rising with production is up nearly 30% over the last five years.

Although those in the industry do not believe this year’s pumpkin shortage will have much of an effect on the price of pumpkins or many pumpkin products, some pumpkin growers are navigating shortages by selling not just pumpkins but family fun — with attractions like corn mazes and petting zoos at their farms.

As stated in the article, Doug Joyer is a fourth-generation farmer, but the first in his family to rely solely on the farm for income. He says he added a corn maze five years ago by popular request.

“People called us asking if we did a corn maze,” Joyer sais. “They kind of assumed we had a corn maze if we had a pumpkin patch.”

Joyer’s farm sells decorative and small-pie pumpkins, which are also experiencing a shortage, although it’s not as severe as the one facing pumpkins used for processing.

Paul Hugunin, a marketing manager with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, has watched farm culture for the past 27 years and said in the article that the addition of entertainment is how a lot of pumpkin farms are staying profitable even when the harvest is light.

“The biggest change that we see with pumpkins is not so much the number of farms growing them or the number of pumpkins we’re raising,” Hugunin says. “It’s what goes along with that.”

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