Pumpkin Patches Wiped Out, Prices Rise Before Halloween

The ghost of Irene still haunts the Northeast.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Heavy rain especially from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee have destroyed pumpkin patches in Closter, NJ.

    It should be the busiest time of year for pumpkin farmers and sellers, but the spheric squash is in short supply this season, thanks to the heavy summer rains that culminated with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

    The rains have taken their tolls on pumpkin farmers in the Northeast, especially in New Jersey and in the Hudson Valley of New York. 

    "This is all wiped out," said Ted Sollod, a farmer in Closter, N.J., as he walked the edges of his one-acre pumpkin patch.

    His workers were able to save a few hundred of the gourds before Irene struck, but thousands of pumpkins were lost.

    Sollod said the day before Irene dumped inches of rain on his farm, his workers vowed to save some of the crop.

    "They went out there with wheelbarrows and started bringing in anything they could bring in," Sollod said.

    Without his homegrown pumpkins, Sollod had to order a truckload of pumpkins from upstate New York.

    Shipping alone cost him $750, he said.

    So what will this do to prices?

    Sollod said the first load cost him 10 percent more than last year, which amounts to a $2 to $3 increase on a $20 dollar pumpkin.

    But he warned that for future deliveries in coming weeks, he is only being quoted market price.

    It will have affect at least one pumpkin buyer.

    Marcia Hankle of Teaneck, N.J. said she usually buys three pumpkins every Halloween.

    This year, with the higher price, "I'll probably buy two instead of three," Hankle said.

    Sollod, who owns The Farm farmstand in Closter, had more bad news: there will be few oversized pumpkins this year.

    "There may not be a Great Pumpkin this year for Charlie Brown," Sollod said.

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY