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Archive for Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin harvest: average yields in a rainy year

October 31, 2013

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There's one group of local farmers whose harvests fared better, or at least not considerably worse, during last year's drought: pumpkin growers.

Since pumpkins are a dry weather crop, farmers might prefer the drought to a season that's too rainy.

Janet Schaake, owner of Schaake's Pumpkin Patch in Lawrence, said she was able to grow more pumpkins in 2012 than during this year's comparatively wet summer and fall.

"We still had a good yield," she said, classifying it as "average." "As long as we have some left over when we close Oct. 31. We're just happy to have enough for everybody."

Her cattle are happy when there are leftovers, as well. Once the business closes after Halloween, the Schaakes put their cattle in the pumpkin patch, surround it with an electric fence and let them have at it. "They'll have them gone in about two weeks," she said.

While there has been some rain lately, it wasn't enough to rot the 30 acres of pumpkins at Schaake's as they sat on the ground, she added.

Meanwhile, over at Pendleton's County Market in Lawrence, owner Karen Pendleton said she was happy to get some more moisture this year. During the 2012 drought, she had to irrigate her 4 acres of pumpkins to get their seeds to germinate. At the same time, too much rain can also stop people from visiting the pumpkin patch, she added.

"There's a fine line for what's good for farmers. We can complain about anything," said Pendleton, who called this year's crop above average. "But this year, we probably had optimum conditions."

Charlie Taylor, who grows an acre of pumpkins north of Lawrence, said he had an OK crop, as it got too hot during pollination, though he did get enough moisture at the right time.

But it seems true for agriculture that, just real estate, it's all about location, location, location. "I had a decent year," Taylor remarked, "while my neighbor said he had the best year he's ever had."

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