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Record rainfall is carving a hole out of pumpkin production

MANOR TOWNSHIP, LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — “I can sum it up in three words: this season is wet, wet, and wet.” That’s how Jim Stauffer, own...

MANOR TOWNSHIP, LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. --- "I can sum it up in three words: this season is wet, wet, and wet."

That's how Jim Stauffer, owner of Country Barn, describes this challenging year for growing pumpkins.

He said the rainy year is hurting two aspects: the quality and the variety selection of pumpkins.

One big problem: no bees.

Stauffer said bees are like people: they don't want to go out in the rain.

He said that leads to problems for the pumpkins because there is little to no pollination.

“If we don’t have bees, we don’t get our flowers pollinated and once we have no pollination, we have no pumpkins,” said Stauffer.

He said they grew sunflowers next to the pumpkins to try to attract bees.

It worked until seven and a half inches of rains thwarted those efforts, too.

However, Stauffer said it, at least, helped give them what they have today.

“There is no carbon copy that you can pull out of the playbook and say "Okay, this is what we do in a wet year, this is what we do in a dry year, this is what we do in a normal year." You have to be ready to counteract mother nature’s punches that they give you and learn from it,” said Stauffer.

Another problem: the rainfall this summer allows leaf and soil disease to flourish.

Jeffery Stoltzfus, farm food safety educator with Penn State Extension, said that leads to pumpkins rotting away.

“The disease is in that water and wherever that water is going to go, that disease is now going to be in the soil,” said Stoltzfus.

Stauffer said they grow the pumpkins on top of a bed of straw, which protects it from flowing diseases.

Efforts after efforts to get what Stauffer says is “the best they could” out of a challenging season.

However, he sees a silver lining.

“Every time I look about how we struggled with this year’s crops, I just have to look down south at some of my farmer friends down in the Carolinas and say you know what, we could’ve had it worse,” said Stauffer.

He said due to the lack of production, wholesale prices on pumpkins will be up about 10 to 25 percent, if not more.

Stauffer recommends not waiting to buy a pumpkin closer to the traditional time: around Halloween.

He said there may not be much of a selection of pumpkins left at that time of the month.

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