North Jersey pumpkin supplies held up this weekend – the peak weekend for pumpkin purchases – despite crop problems that raised the specter of pre-Halloween shortages.
Summer-like weather Saturday and Sunday drew record crowds to farms in Bergen and Passaic counties that feature “pick your own” pumpkin patches, but there were plenty of pumpkins to spare.
Hurricane Irene washed out many crops in New Jersey and New York State, and heavy rains in the weeks after Irene caused other crops to become too waterlogged and prone to rotting. But local businesses brought in pumpkins and other gourds from surrounding states – and in some cases from as far away as Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois – and were able to meet the demand for what has become a suburban ritual – a family outing to select the perfect pumpkin.
“We’ve been doing this every year for probably 17 years,” visiting different farms on different years, said Angie Greco, a 70-year-old grandmother from Dumont, riding the hay wagon back from the pumpkin patch at Secor Farms in Mahwah. Her daughter-in-law Lisa Greco said she had heard the supply and quality of pumpkins had been affected by the weather, but was happy with the condition of the pumpkins the family had selected. “They look good, the bottom’s good, and they sound good,” giving one of the orange globes a gentle thump.
The Abel family of Mahwah has been coming to Secor Farms since eldest daughter Chelsey, 6, was a baby, and her mom and dad, Elizabeth and Marc said the selection and quality was as good as it has been in previous years.
Darryl Secor, owner of the farm, which has been operated by his family for 100 years, said prices on some of the larger, specialty pumpkins are 10 to 20 percent higher due to the tough growing conditions this year, and could mean a pumpkin that was $7 last year would be $2 more this year, but he kept his price on the “pick your own” pumpkins steady at 65 cents a pound.
“Columbus Day weekend is always our busiest weekend,” Secor said, surveying the crowds Sunday morning. Families were out in force even more than usual this Columbus Day weekend, he said, “because this the first nice weekend we’ve had.”
At Demarest Farms in Hillsdale at midday Sunday there was a shortage of parking spaces, as the lot around the main building was filled to capacity, but no shortage of pumpkins. Peter Demarest estimated that several thousand people visited the farm over the weekend and at one point Sunday there was an hour wait for the hayride to the pumpkin patch.
Demarest said he should have enough shipments of pumpkins arriving from Michigan to see him through to Halloween, but said there could be shortages the closer it gets to Halloween. “The last week to 10 days before Halloween it might start to get hard to find them,” he said. “There are only so many pumpkins in the USA.”
Farms throughout North Jersey have been warning customers to choose their pumpkins carefully this year, because the wet growing conditions in some parts of the country are causing premature rotting.
Jack Morton, owner of Richfield Farms, which has been on Van Houten Avenue in Clifton since 1917, said he is seeing more pumpkins that have to be thrown out, rather than sold, but that the farm has been able to secure a good supply from a Flemington supplier that wasn’t affected by Irene. Pumpkin picking is one way the farm can make itself a fall destination, along with pony rides and a $5 “make your own scarecrow” station – they supply the straw, frame and head. He has kept pumpkin prices the same as last year, he said, because a good price on a pumpkins “keeps people coming back” every year.