Pumpkin harvest underway: Yield a bit lighter this year due to heat, humidity

Anita Andrick, co-owner of Mt. Airy Farm in Mount Jackson, checks out some pumpkins in a 4-acre pumpkin patch on the farm off U.S. 11 south of town. The Patch, its formal name, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until Oct. 31, or until they run out of pumpkins. Rich Cooley/Daily

Lattes, beers and pies everywhere are in for some company – the pumpkin harvest has begun.

Although a hot and humid August and July hampered pumpkin growth in the area, most growers are open for business and well into their harvests at this point.

Down in Mount Jackson, the pumpkin patch at Mount Airy opened three weeks ago. One of the farm’s owners, Joe Beckenstrater III, said his pumpkins are looking good, although applying fungicides to stave off weeds became a necessity with the heat and rain.

“They’re doing pretty well,” Beckenstrater said. “They had some weeds due to rain, but they seem to be doing pretty good.”

To date, the heaviest pumpkin he’s seen at the farm weighed a whopping 76 lbs.

Pumpkins at Mount Airy cost $4 if they weigh between 7 lbs. and 14 lbs., or $40 for a wheelbarrow full.

Farther north, growers are meeting more modest success.

Wayside Farm in Berryville grew a lighter load of pumpkins than in years passed, and didn’t get anywhere near triple digit poundage with a pumpkin. According to Harriet Wegmeyer, the farm’s owner, the heat and humidity affected volume, though not quality.

“The pumpkins did OK. They look pretty good, but our yield is a lighter this year,” she said.

Wegmeyer explained that the heat and humidity slows down bee pollination, which in turn, hurts the pumpkins.

Wayside Farms’ pumpkins are on sale for 50 cents per pound.

Over at Marker Miller Orchards in Winchester, John Marker said he started harvesting about three weeks ago. He said he hasn’t grown any eye-turning pumpkins, but overall it’s a plentiful crop.

“They’re doing pretty well, but the late, dry weather has hurt ’em some,” he said. “They may not be quite as big this year as in the past.”

Marker-Miller pumpkins are on sale for 59 cents per pound.

According to a news release from the office of Governor Terry McAuliffe, the governor has declared October to be pumpkin month in Virginia. According to the release, the state has approximately 3,000 acres of wholesale pumpkins valued at $6 million, and is home to more than 200 pumpkin growing businesses.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com