I heard a rumor that the East Coast is experiencing a pumpkin shortage, but I didn’t quite believe it until we arrived at the Mazeilla Pumpkin Patch (owned by Klingel Farms in Saylorsburg, PA). I’ve taken Jake every year since he was two, and usually we have thousands of pumpkins to choose from. We used to arrive early, take the hayride down to the patch, eat some lunch and play in their play area for a little while. Then we’d grab a wagon and head out into the fields to find the perfect pumpkin.

This year, we arrived early, took the hayless ride down (they’re saving it for later in the season, although I don’t recall hearing about a hay shortage!), ate lunch, and watched Jake play in the play area. All that was still as fun as ever. They have an awesome 100-foot slide made out of some sort of drainage pipe, and a huge area filled with corn kernels and hay mazes for the kids to play in. But when we were ready to go off in search of the Great Pumpkin, this is the scene with which we were greeted:

 

The huge field we used to stroll through was roped off with barely a pumpkin in sight. I recall seeing some splashes of orange way in the back as we were riding down to the field, but no one is allowed back there this year. Instead, this is the “pumpkin patch” that we had to work with:

 

It’s far from the number of pumpkins we usually from which we can usually choose, but we were still able to find two really good ones. Well, one good one, the other turned out to have a rotting patch on it, but they let me exchange it for one up top at the farmer’s market stand. According to one of the workers, the pumpkin shortage affected one major crop. The farmers usually have more than enough to sell at auction, but this year they barely have enough to make it through their busiest season. While I’m sad that we didn’t get to do our usual pumpkin-picking ritual, I feel especially awful for the farmers who rely on a few good pumpkin crops to supplement their annual profits.I think Klingel farm will survive because of their awesome Mazeilla and other activities, but some patches are probably looking at serious financial losses.

Causes of the Pumpkin Shortage 2011

According to CBS News and other sources, the pumpkin shortage was caused a combination of factors. The heavy spring rains caused farmers to have to delay their planting, then rains before Irene brought a phytophthora fungus outbreak with it, which destroyed many of the crops. On top of that, Hurricane Irene came ripping through, dumping yet more rain, and the weather really didn’t stay dry for long after that. We had a pumpkin plant that Jake got in school and it was growing so well until Irene hit. Then the poor guy just withered up and died.

For those in areas affected by the pumpkin shortage, I suggest getting out to your local patches and grabbing your pumpkins early. As long as you don’t carve them, they should last until Halloween. I noticed a slight price increase over last year, ours were $0.45 a pound. I paid about $12 for two decent-sized pumpkins.

Has anyone else noticed a significant decrease in the availability of pumpkins in their area?