Heavy rains hurt pumpkin crop

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COLUMBIA - From the outside looking in, you may not realize the challenge Steven Sapp faced this pumpkin season.

There’s a barn full of round, orange pumpkins at Strawberry Hill Farms, but over the summer, Sapp’s crop flooded twice.

“We usually plant pumpkins in the creek bottom land where it’s usually a lower area, which is great on a dry year where you have lots of sub-moisture but on a real wet year, it’s always a challenge to try to keep them dry enough,” he said.

Due to the heavy rainfall during the summer months, Sapp said his pumpkin crop was not as abundant this year.

“Besides having a lot of rain, they were wet constantly, so we did have a lot of rotting issues,” he said.

To keep up with customer demand, Sapp had to purchase pumpkins from other farmers in the area.

“I’ve got a gentleman at Rocheport that I buy from, there’s a gentleman in Hermann and then we also go down toward Versailles,” he said. “A lot of Mennonites have a lot of pumpkins and they’re usually on higher ground, so they’ve had a little bit more success than we have.”

Leon Cumpton, owner of Pa Pa’s Pumpkin Patch near Sedalia, said he also had to purchase pumpkins from other farmers.

“I don’t have enough acres to grow my own, so I buy every year,” he said.

Cumpton blames the extreme heat and dry weather patches for his smaller crop.

“It wasn’t a real good season for pumpkins,” he said. “Some of the smaller stuff, like squash and mini pumpkins did well, but not the regular pumpkins.”

Andrew Biggs, the superintendent of MU Bradford Research Center, said although he was happy with his crop, it was also a good season for weeds.

“Weeds are never good in any crop,” he said. “Weeds in our pumpkin field are particularly plentiful.”

When it comes to picking pumpkins, Sapp prefers quality over quantity. 

“We try to make sure we don’t have any punctures or any spots on them and that way it will last for the customer,” he said.

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