Indianapolis—Fall is just beginning and halloween is more than a month away, but pumpkin growers say this year's crop is already scary. Some say it's the worst growing season in recent memory, and now fewer pumpkins is expected to translate into higher prices.
This is usually the prime time of year for Waterman's Farm Market, with fresh produce giving way to preparations for the fall festival that attracts thousands looking for a perfect pumpkin, but this year a trip to the field with Carol Waterman doesn't exactly yield excitement.
"That's pretty sad," Waterman said while surveying a field.
A wet spring meant many growers got a late start and then the record dry weather in August compounded the problem. Many pumpkins ripened early meaning they are already orange, yet smaller than normal.
"This one is fine, but this one gives when I press on it," Waterman said.
But the pumpkins you see aren't as much a problem as those you don't. The late start and extreme heat meant many never even blossomed.
"I'll bet that was a blossom that fell off during the heat," Waterman said, pointing to one of the withered plants. "That means that they did not turn into pumpkins, but that the plant aborted them in order to survive itself."
Despite the down year, it's not all bad news for the Waterman's. The fields at their Greenwood location fared much better, featuring plenty of fully grown pumpkins.
"I sure wish the other fields looked like this field," Waterman said.
She says the sandy soil made the difference in Greenwood. They were able to plant during the wet spring and the pumpkins beat the heat.
That good fortune means the Waterman's Markets might be the only place where you won't see the cost passed on to the customer.
"We intend to remain at the same price as we were last year," she said. "I don't know what it will do to the overall market."
Carol says she'd be surprised if the cost doesn't go up at stores who rely on buying wholesale pumpkins from farms like theirs. That's because farms usually grow more than enough for their customers and then sell the extras. This year she says there will be no extras.
"This year we won't have any overproduction to wholesale," Waterman said. "We'll just take care of our retail customers."