There's nothing scary about Pennsylvania's pumpkin crop this year.
"It looks very good this year," said Kelly Baronner, co-owner of Baronners Farm Market in Hollidaysburg. "We had an adequate amount of moisture early, and that really helped. It got a little dry [in September], so we were able to keep the disease away."
Like Baronner, pumpkin growers throughout the region saw "overall good yields," said Tom Ford, director of Penn State's Blair County cooperative extension office and commercial horticulture educator.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Employee Margaret Edmunson straightens up the selection of pumpkins for sale last week at Baronners Farm Market in Hollidaysburg.
"A lot of times with pumpkin growers, they don't use irrigation," Ford said. "So they're more dependent on rainfall. This year's rainfall was perfect - we didn't have excessive rain and we didn't have not enough. The pumpkin crop did very well for the local grower."
The pumpkins, Ford said, are about 6 to 10 pounds, which is what most consumers want for carving, with sturdy stems for handling.
Very few growers in the region produce pie pumpkins; almost all are grown to become decorations or jack-o'-lanterns.
n Pumpkins are a member of the cucurbitaceae family, which also includes squash, cantaloupes, cucumbers, watermelons and gourds.
n Around 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced on 75,000 acres in the U.S. annually.
n Growers usually plant as seed approximately 1,600 to 2,800 plants per acre in single rows 6 to 8 feet apart with 30 to 40 inches between plants in the row.
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These varieties of pumpkins are recommended
for growing in Pennsylvania
VarietyWeight in pounds
Spooktacular3 to 5
Merlin12 to 18
Magic Lantern12 to 16
Casper (white fruit)10 to 20
Jack-B-Little (small, orange fruit)0.25
Baby Boo (small, white fruit)0.25
Baby Pam (excellent for pies)35
Baronner said most of her customers are after medium-sized pumpkins.
"People aren't looking for super gigantic varieties," she said. "A lot more people are decorating with them instead of carving them."
Most local pumpkin growers grow a variety of crops, Ford said, so the pumpkin crop won't make or break them.
"Everybody has to do a little bit of everything to add up to a living," said Tom Baker, who owns Bakers' Farm in Duncans-ville.
Baker grows sweet corn and raises cattle in addition to six acres of pumpkins - twice what he planted last year.
As of Sept. 26, he'd sold 27 tons of pumpkins.
"Pumpkins don't get planted till June," Baker said. "So we missed the spring, which was especially wet."
The Associated Press reported in May that New England pumpkin growers are dealing with fallout from a rainy early summer. Heavy rains in June and July turned some seedlings to mush in the soil and delayed the harvest up to two weeks, meaning pumpkins may not turn orange or grow large enough in time to be shipped to stores.
Most of the pumpkins in local stores come from within a 25-mile radius, Ford said.
He doesn't expect the problems in New England to have any effect on prices locally.
"We have a good nucleus of small growers," Ford said. "We don't have big growers, but when you're aggregating the small acreage of pumpkins, you've got quite a number of pumpkins."
Local pumpkin prices are usually only affected by problems in the Maryland crop.
"If Maryland ends up with a poor pumpkin crop, that may inflate our prices more than any other area," he said. "I haven't seen any negative reports from that area."
Mirror Staff Writer Ashley Gurbal is at 946-7435.