Summer rains wreak some havoc on Michiana pumpkin crop

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By: Marshall V. King
mking@flavor574.com

Kam Abbott/Flickr

Remember all that rain in June and July?

Well, it hurt the local pumpkin crop in a few spots locally and around the rest of the Midwest. 

Kercher’s Sunrise Orchards on the south side of Goshen lost much of its crop this summer.

Bullard’s Farm Market
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Kercher’s Sunrise Orchards
8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday

 

“We lost almost entirely all of it,” said owner Tom Kercher of his 30 acres.

He said he’s talked to other growers around the Midwest who are also looking at fields with too little orange.

Kevin Bullard at Bullard’s Farm Market said his eight acres of pumpkins east of Elkhart did well and has plenty to sell this fall.

“Our crop looks good,” he said.

Whether the rainfall, the soils, luck or chemicals differed, that’s the nature of farming these days. It’s hit or miss.

“It’s mixed all over the place,” said Jeff Burbrink, an educator with the Purdue Extension Elkhart County office.

The culprit hurting the crop this year is Phytophthora, or powdery mildew. It’s a fungus that grows on the leaves and then causes them to fade away before the pumpkins are mature.

The fungus hurt Kercher’s, but other farmers lost plants to simple drowning in the wet fields, Burbrink said.

Farmers in central Indiana were hit hard with this year’s record rainfall. A grower near Muncie with 600 acres of pumpkins lost half of his crop, Kercher said.

Kercher said they’ll have pumpkins, but will have to buy some from other suppliers and won’t be able to be a supplier in the same way as most years. Retail prices will be 40 cents per pound rather than the 35 cents of last year.

Though it’s early, pumpkins are already selling well, Bullard and Kercher both said. Bullard’s has them for $2 to $7, depending on size. He also has tomatoes, peppers and sweet corn still going strong.

“I’ll have tomatoes until the second week of October,” he said.

Both are planning harvest festivals in coming weeks. Bullard’s is Oct. 3 and Kercher’s is Sept. 26-27. There will be hayrides at Kercher’s that weekend, but it won’t be to a full pumpkin patch like usual, he said. Their U-pick pumpkins were basically wiped out.

Burbrink has advice for those buying pumpkins now: Let them cure. Whether you grew it or bought it, put the pumpkin in a dry but drafty area out of the sun for a few days so the flesh can harden a bit.

“The longer they cure, the longer they last,” he said.

 

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