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California pumpkin growers gearing up for Halloween

Tim Hearden

Capital Press

The pumpkins harvest in California is entering its peak. Growers say this month's mild temperatures are helping crop development as well as attendance to the public attractions that are offered at many farms.

ANDERSON, Calif. — If the leaves are starting to turn, that means pumpkin patches around California are burgeoning with orange orbs that are ripe for picking.

The pumpkin harvest in the Golden State is entering its peak, and growers say the mild temperatures that have lingered this month have helped both crop development and attendance at their public events.

“You can’t ask for better weather than this,” said Wayne Bishop, co-owner of Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm in Wheatland, Calif. “We had rain on our opening day, but that’s not all bad because it’s the trigger people need to think about fall. Normally, it’s not unusual to have 100-degree highs even now.”

California’s 5,900 acres of pumpkins yielded about 14.5 tons per acre in 2011, bringing an average gross value per acre of $3,393, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Pumpkins are grown in most counties in California, though about 70 percent of them are in San Joaquin County, University of California Cooperative Extension advisors explain. Most are planted in May or June for the Halloween season, according to a UC essay on pumpkin production.

Farmers say the quality of this year’s crop looks very good and will stay that way if the rain holds off until November, the California Farm Bureau Federation reports. Most of the pumpkins grown in California are sold within the state, according to the Farm Bureau.

Over the last decade, many pumpkin farms in California have developed into booming tourist attractions. Now in its ninth year of providing entertainment, Hawes Farms here offers a corn maze, train and hay rides and other attractions. The farm is visited by thousands of schoolchildren on field trips each autumn, co-owner Greg Hawes said.

“It looks good,” Hawes said of this year’s crop. “We just started … (but) it looks nice.”

Manteca, Calif.-based pumpkin shipper George Perry and Sons, Inc., moves much of its product in the three weeks leading up to Halloween, co-owner Art Perry said. The business provides pumpkins to supermarkets and other retailers.

“I don’t think we’re going to have an excess, but I think we’re going to have enough for the customers we take care of,” Perry said.

“It’s been a good growing year,” he said. “This is almost perfect weather because it’s not too hot. Sometimes we can get heat waves … that can hurt us because it’s too hot. Right now it’s very mild and dry and the forecast looks good.”

Online

Hawes Farms: http://historichawesfarms.com/

Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm: http://www.bishopspumpkinfarm.com/

Perry and Sons, Inc.: http:/perryandsons.com/



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