10:32 PM EDT, September 19, 2011
The hot and dry end to the summer is hurting pumpkin crops in Indiana, but it's a different kind of weather that's jacking up demand and prices across the country. Hurricane Irene along with prolonged wet weather in the Northeast have devastated crops in the northeast and created demand for pumpkins in Indiana and beyond.
Though Monday was a wet and gloomy day in the pumpkin patch at Beasley Orchards, it also served as a rare bright spot for owner Debra Beasley, who said this year's crop needs quite a bit of moisture following an awfully dry summer.
Beasley said the stifling heat midway through the summer led to less pollination and the dry weather since has hurt yields across the state.
"It just varies depending upon what part of the state you're in," she said, adding that the crop at Beasley's Orchard will still produce enough pumpkins to satisfy local demand.
The problem is, at a time when there are fewer pumpkins available for wholesale, the prices and demand outside the area are much higher. The increased demand is coming from East Coast states like New York and parts of New England, where Hurricane Irene washed away many of the crops and fungus caused by the wet weather killed others.
Many growers have already begun searching for pumpkins in other parts of the country including here in Indiana.
"We have had a few calls," Beasley said, adding that more are definitely possible since it's not even October yet.
Though the wholesale market is up thanks to the out of state demand, Debra said prices at Beasley's will stay the same.
"Something like this (pie pumpkin) is going to run like around $2," Beasley said. "That goes up to the $25-$30 range for the giant pumpkins."
Even if the out of state demand continues to grow, Beasley said they'll take care of the local demand first.
"We intend to keep the pumpkins here," Beasley said. "We've worked all year to grow these beautiful pumpkins so we will try to keep them in Indiana."
Though some say pumpkin prices in the Northeast could easily double, the key to avoiding price hikes locally is to make sure you are buying local. Many pick-your-own patches have more than enough to satisfy demand and don't plan big increases. Beasley said transporting pumpkins sends prices up quickly so buying pumpkins grown in Indiana should still be reasonable even if supply is lower.