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.
Many area farms have fared well through the wet weather while some Northeastern states face a pumpkin shortage.
“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.”
Hurricane Irene raked the Northeast in late August, bringing torrents of rain that overflowed rivers and flooded fields along the East Coast and into southern Canada. Pray saw his entire crop, about 15,000 to 20,000 pumpkins, washed into Lake Champlain.
But 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 pumpkin sales plummet after Halloween on Oct. 31. Wholesalers need to get pumpkins on their way to stores by mid-September.
Another spate of rain about two weeks before Irene caused outbreaks of the phytophthora fungus —a type of water mold — in many fields, said Jim Stakey, owner of Stakey’s Pumpkin Farm in Aquebogue, on New York’s Long Island.