Summer rains affect key fall crop

Wil Petty Staff Writer

October 3, 2013

The weather over the summer in the High Country affected many of the area’s seasonal crops. It turns out the storms have also affected fall crops, such as pumpkins.

“The crops have been very much affected,” said Jackie Chatham, who helps operate the High Mountain Farms lot in Glendale Springs. “My son farms and he lost probably 95 percent of his pumpkin crop due to the rain.”

Chatham said their family was fortunate that a five-acre area of their pumpkin patch was less affected and could be salvaged.

Pumpkins are used in a variety of ways. For those selling locally, the crop is mostly used for decorations for cornucopias in the winter or Jack-O-Lanterns for the Halloween season.

Also, people use smaller versions of the winter squash for pumpkin pies.

“The time of year where you plant the crop is in May and June,” Chatham said. “(This year) the rain rotted all of the seeds in the ground.”

Chatham said all of the growers in the area had difficulties with their pumpkin crops. With High Mountain Farms, the rain caused the family not to be able to wholesale their crop.

“We will have enough to sell for the Halloween season,” she said.

Farmers and sellers alike are noticing the problems rain caused for the seasonal crop.

Welch’s Produce in Jefferson bought their pumpkins from other area farmers, but owner Danny Welch also grows his own.

“(The crop problem) doesn’t show up so bad here because I can shop with 100 farmers and come up with everything I need,” he said. “But none of the farmers I’m shopping with have what they need to make a living.”

Welch said his pumpkins turned out better than most in the area because he waited until later in the season to start growing.

“I would imagine anybody that planted the pumpkins early in the season did lose them,” he said. “I planted my fields later and they did pretty well, but the deer and groundhogs ate them all up.”

Welch said he believes it is a statewide thing. He has traveled as far as the Asheville Farmer’s Market and saw how the crop has done further south.

“There aren’t a lot of pumpkins down there either, so I’m pretty sure it is that way everywhere,” he said.

Welch said he believes the shortage of the crop this year will affect prices. Certain items such as pies and pumpkin beers may go up in price because of supply and demand.

But the prices he sold his pumpkins for did not change.

“My pumpkins were sold for pretty much the same price,” Welch said. “I think the price will stay the same instead of going down like it does (later in the season).

For The Pumpkin Patch in Jefferson, prices for the pumpkins are lower than what they usually charge.

“Our prices have gone down because we have smaller products,” said Kaitlin Carpenter, manager of the business. “We can’t charge as much for the pumpkins because of that.”

Carpenter said the rain mainly affected their farm’s specialty pumpkin products, but most of the pumpkins sold there are for decoration. The business still has an ample supply of the fruit.

“Most of our products are used for decorations,” she said. “We have people come here for decorations because we have so many colors, varieties and sizes of pumpkins.”