xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement

Carroll County, area farmers say recent drought hasn’t stemmed pumpkin supply

Unseasonably warm and dry conditions are keeping pumpkin pickers at bay, but farmers in Carroll County and the surrounding region say the dry heat is mostly a benefit to their crops.

Lisa Showvaker of Showvaker’s Quality Evergreens in Manchester, said her acre of pumpkins is faring well — and a dry spell in mid-July might have helped them.

Advertisement

“If there’s too much rain, they grow too fast and they split,” she said.

With most farmers seeding pumpkins in early June to be ready for harvest in October, “the pumpkins were basically already sized up and made by the time it got dry” last month, Brad Milton of Brad’s Produce in Churchville said. “It’s actually good for a little bit [of sun] to harden the pumpkin and cure it.”

“This is one of the best crops we’ve ever had,” Milton said of his 14-acre pumpkin yield.

Dwight Baugher, co-owner of Baugher’s Orchards and Farms in Westminster, wasn’t ready to go that far.

“Our pumpkin crop’s OK. I wouldn’t rave about it,” Baugher said, noting that, of the two farms which produce pumpkins for Baugher’s, the one irrigation did well while the one without irrigation didn’t do so well. “We’ll still have pick-your-own like always.”

Baugher’s often draws large crowds of pumpkin pickers in October. In a solid year, Baugher said they will go through 1,000 bins of pumpkins, with each bin holding 800 or 900 pounds worth.

“I don’t know that we’ll approach that this year,” he said.

What’s really affecting pumpkin sales is not the heat’s effect on the fruit, but its impact on pumpkin patch visitors and market customers.

Advertisement

“People don’t like to pick pumpkins when it’s 90 degrees out,” Milton said.

In Baltimore, Harford, Howard and Anne Arundel counties and most of Carroll County, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported moderate drought conditions Thursday. That could delay crop plantings or stunt crop growth and grain yields, cause wilting, elevate fire danger, and stress trees and landscaping, according to the monitor report.

Rainfall in the region was “pretty close to normal” until the start of “one of the driest Septembers on record,” said Luis Rosa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Last month saw just half an inch of rain across the region, which encompasses the Baltimore and D.C. metro areas, he said.

Combined with the unseasonably warm weather, like the record-setting 98-degree day in the Baltimore region on Oct. 2, it has led to “flash drought" conditions.

Area farmers prefer the dry conditions to last year’s “catastrophic” record rainfall in the state, said Nora Crist, of Clark’s Elioak Farm in Howard County. An unusually wet summer in 2018 ruined pumpkin crops across Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties.

“The old saying is ‘a dry year will scare you, but a wet year will starve you,’ ” Milton said.

Advertisement

Pumpkins are fairly drought-tolerant said Steve Weber, proprietor of Weber’s Cider Mill Farm in Parkville.

“What they mind is wet weather,” which makes them more susceptible to rot and diseases, he said.

In some cases, the heat makes picking easier and the pumpkins hold up better, Denise Sharp, whose family operates Sharp’s at Waterford Farm in western Howard County, said.

Crist said that while she thinks it’s going to be a good year for the pumpkin crop overall, she’s noticed “the vines have died back a little bit earlier, and the ground is really hot, which can also the hurt the pumpkins if they’re sitting in a field that doesn’t have vegetation anymore.

"Ninety degrees can make them go bad, fast,” she said.

After setting records across the state for high temperatures on Wednesday, however, more seasonable weather moved into the area and the forecast calls for more of the same over the next week, which could bode well for pumpkin crops and sales.

Baltimore Sun Media staffer Matt Button and Carroll County Times staff contributed to this article.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement