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Pumpkins, apples unaffected by drought

October 08, 2012|By Adam Lukach, @lucheezy | RedEye

Pumpkin-carvers and apple-bobbers, relax. Despite a historic summer drought, autumn's most popular crops will still be readily available this year, no matter what you might have read online (just Google "pumpkin apple shortage 2012).

If there are any shortages in the apple or pumpkin crops this fall, it will have little to do with the barren conditions that dried out the Midwest. Pumpkins thrive in hot, dry weather, while the Midwestern apple crop's fate had already been decided.

Richard Tanner, 67, treasurer of Tanners Orchard in Speer, Ill., said no apples existed to suffer during the drought, as a late spring frost ruined the crop before it got started.

"This year the apples bloomed about five weeks ahead of normal. Then we had a freeze on April 11 that froze the seed in the apple, and they all aborted, so we had no apple crop,"  Tanner said.

Tanner said the freeze affected the entire Midwest, with only some parts of Wisconsin and Michigan that he knew avoiding the prematurely frozen fruit. Fortunately, he said those parts of the area have been more than willing to help them out. He also said that customers will see an earlier influx of west coast apples than they normally would, thanks to a particularly fruitful harvest.

"There will be plenty of apples available, if they are willing to pay the price," Tanner said, referring to the $3.50 to $4 price tag that comes along with apples this season.

The summer drought conditions made it ideal for pumpkin growing, however. Mac Condill, 35-year-old production manager for the Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur, Ill., said the crop was one of the best he had seen in 24 years working on the farm.

"Our pumpkins were fantastic. Our squash was out of this world," he said. "They love hot, dry weather, we had plenty of both of those things."

Moisture and ground contact usually foster fungus and disease on pumpkins, but the conditions eliminated most of that. Pumpkin patches like Condill's, which feature numerous harvest activities, won't have to change any plans, nor will families seeking to pick up a jack o' lantern.

Dave Bengtson, the co-owner of Bengtson's Pumpkin Farm in Homer Glen, said he sees an alleged pumpkin shortage narrative crop up every year, but said it's rarely valid.

"Some years, yes, there is a legitimately tight market. They start with this thing every year in September," he said. "There are years I might worry about, but this isn't one of them."

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