Tough growing season shrinks pumpkin crop this year

It may be a little bit harder to find one of the most iconic images of fall this year.

The cold and wet start to the planting season, combined with a long stretch of dry weather, took a toll on this year’s pumpkin crop.

The sunflower fences guarding patches of a fall favorite are the gateway leading to Ferguson’s Morningside Orchards in Galesville, but this year owner Tom Ferguson said you’ll have to look a little bit harder to find the pumpkins.

“This pumpkin patch, normally we would expect to have at least a couple of thousand pumpkins out here, but this year there’s only maybe 500 to 1,000,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson planted 20 acres of pumpkins this year, all of which were off to a late start because of the cold and wet beginning to the planting season.


“Normally we like to get them in about the first week of May and this year we were closer to the first week in June,” said Ferguson.

But that’s not the only thing making this year’s pumpkins a little small in both size and quantity.

“Probably even the bigger impact was just the dry weather,” said Ferguson.

Doug Shefelbine’s eight acres at his orchard and pumpkin patch in Holmen also took a hit this year.

“About half our crop is not good,” said Shefelbine. “There’s pumpkins out there. You’re going to have to look for them, though.”

Both farmers plant pumpkins as a small side crop to their apple business, and with last year’s tough growing season, a smaller pumpkin crop this year doesn’t seem so bad.

“Compared to the apple harvest last year, this is fantastic,” said Ferguson.

“We’ve got a crop to sell and the response — people are coming out, they appreciate it,” said Shefelbine.

Both say it’s always nice to plant a variety.

“That’s why diversity is a good thing,” said Ferguson. “Have a little bit of everything so when one doesn’t work out so good, another can fill in behind it.”

Both farmers said the last couple of weeks in September and first two weeks of October are the busiest for their pumpkin business, but they say it might not be a bad idea to go picking earlier rather than later — especially this year.

Both farmers said they’re still keeping an eye on the weather. Temperatures in the lower 20s could hurt the pumpkins, but those temperatures aren’t expected until late October.