COLE COUNTY - As Halloween nears, thoughts of costumes, candy and jack-o-lanterns come to mind. But, pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns almost weren't available. Due to the summer drought, local pumpkin patches nearly lost their crops.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that on average, commercial pumpkin prices are four percent higher than last year due to the drought. The drought hurt Mid-Missouri pumpkin growers as well, and it led to some budget rearranging to keep prices down.
Jay Fischer, Fischer Farm co-owner and pumpkin grower, has grown pumpkins for over 10 years. He said he has never experienced a year as crazy and hard as this one. After receiving virtually no rain through the month of July, he had to purchase irrigation equipment in order to keep his pumpkin crop alive. Fischer said that without irrigation, he would have lost nearly all of his pumpkins, corn and other crops.
Katie Myers, Heavenly Harvest pumpkin patch co-owner, also had to irrigate to keep her family's pumpkin patch alive. Myers and her husband watered twice a day, using "roughly 1200 gallons of water each time." Fortunately, they already had irrigation equipment, but still had to spend extra money on gasoline for the tractor to pull the equipment.
Despite the extra costs, however, both growers said that they tried to keep prices relatively the same. Fischer said that he and his wife kept their prices the same as last year because they have many annual customers. He said that their business was important, and he didn't want anyone to think they were being taken advantage of if the Fischers raised their prices. Fischer Farm also has a corn maze, hayrides, school tours and more so they also relied on that to help recoup costs from the pumpkins.
There were some positives to the drought, though. Myers said that it provided many learning experiences and ideas for the coming years. Heavenly Harvest planted 15 types of pumpkins this year and learned which kinds survived the best in Missouri's heat. For Fischer Farms, they hope to use the newly purchased irrigation equipment in the future. Fischer added that the equipment was useful for both the pumpkin patch and his large corn maze so it was ultimately worth it.
Fischer added, "I just hope we have a better year next year."