September 18, 2011 in Nation/World

Northeast faces pumpkin shortage

Chris Hawley Associated Press
 

NEW YORK – Northeastern states are facing a jack-o’-lantern shortage this Halloween after Hurricane Irene destroyed hundreds of pumpkin patches across the region, farmers say.

Wholesale prices have doubled in some places as farmers nurse their surviving pumpkin plants toward a late harvest. Some farmers are trying to buy pumpkins from other regions to cover orders.

“I think there’s going to be an extreme shortage of pumpkins this year,” said Darcy Pray, owner of Pray’s Family Farms in Keeseville, in upstate New York. “I’ve tried buying from people down in the Pennsylvania area, I’ve tried locally here and I’ve tried reaching across the border to some farmers over in the Quebec area. There’s just none around.”

Pumpkin farmers had been having a difficult year even before the storm. Heavy rains this spring meant many farms had to postpone planting for two or three weeks, setting back the fall harvest, said Jim Murray, owner of the Applejacks Orchard in Peru, N.Y.

A late harvest can be fatal to business because sales plummet after Halloween on Oct. 31. Wholesalers need to get pumpkins on their way to stores by mid-September.

This week a cold snap threatened to kill the surviving vines, Murray said.

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