Long Island Pumpkin Shortage Of 2011

Associated Press
A soggy field at Kelly's Emerald Feeds in Queensbury, N.Y., Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. Many area farms have fared well through the wet weather while some Northeastern states face a pumpkin shortage. (AP Photo/The Post Star, Aaron Eisenhauer)

Fall is one of the most festive times of the year. But picking pumpkins and carving jack-o-lanterns, some of the most popular fall activities, may be left off your to-do list this year and Irene is one storm you can thank.

“Every farm is suffering,” said Jim Stakey of Stakey’s Pumpkin Farm in Aquebogue. “It was too much rain.”

Long Island is suffering from a massive pumpkin shortage this season due in part to the mass amounts of rain from this past summer.

“I have not really seen anything like this,” said Stakey. “It’s early. And certainly this going to affect business.”

Tropical Storm Irene brought torrential rain that flooded fields along the East Coast, especially Long Island and upstate New York. but it wasn’t just Irene’s fault, Stakey says there were problems before.

“I think problems really started about two weeks before when we had six inches of rain,” said Stakey. “I am going to put it on Irene too, you know that helped, but it started two weeks before.”

The earlier bout of rain flooded fields and reportedly caused a fungus outbreak, phytophthora, a type of water mold.

This past spring wasn’t rain-free either. The rainy spring season caused farmers to plant late, in turn having a late harvest. A late harvest can be very bad for business. According to the Associated Press, pumpkin sales plummet after Halloween on Oct. 31.

“People who wholesale pumpkins want to get it to the customers by last week or two weeks ago,” said Lee Itzler of Elwood Pumpkin Farm, who runs a pick-your-own pumpkin farm in Mattituck. According to Itzler, pick-your-own pumpkin farms aren’t having as much trouble with the late harvest and says he always plants late.

“We have some trouble but not as much as other places,” said Lee Itzler. “I always plant late, my customers are just starting to come.”

And those who are able to nab one of the few home-grown pumpkins, surely won’t have it for long.

Stakey says,”Take good pictures of it,” and that there’s no chance of really preserving a pumpkin.

“They say if you wash it down with a 10 percent bleach solution and you can ward off some fungus to preserve it, but I have tried that in the past and it still happens. Most of the rot comes from the inside,” says Itzler.

Despite the mass pumpkin shortage, you can still take home a pumpkin at some Long Island farms. One place you can find your pumpkin this season is Shmitts Farm in Melville. The farm imports their pumpkins, so expect to pay full price.