Standing in a field full of fat, orange pumpkins, Bert Bouwman admits he dodged a bullet.
"We had a few times where it was very hot and dry; I had a little concern," says the Brooklyn Park farmer. "I farm on sandy ground so I supplied water with drip irrigation."
Bouwman says he sells anywhere between 200 and 400 pumpkins each weekend in October at his Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Maze. Even as the moderate to severe drought that has gripped more than half the country continues to extend into parts of Minnesota, Bouwman is enjoying a successful and plentiful pumpkin crop.
That's not a surprise to University of Minnesota Extension horticulture educator Terry Nennich, who actually says this season could produce one of the better pumpkin crops. He says, when combined with an irrigation system, drought conditions can actually help pumpkin crops. Pumpkins love the heat and dry weather cuts down on disease.
Such was the case for Bouwman, who says the gourds on his 20-acre patch are doing so well, he might actually have some left over to share with other farmers.
"We have been getting calls from other states looking for pumpkins," he says. "If you are a producer, you have your regular accounts and you want to fulfill those accounts because you want to make them happy, even on a stressful year. You might have to [be forced] to go out of your circle and buy pumpkins to supply."
Bouwman says the seed company he works with gave his number to growers in drought-stressed regions. So far, he's gotten calls from Missouri and Colorado. He says he could hear from more as the season progresses.
He says in the past he has grown just enough pumpkins for himself and a few grocery stores. He says this year is the first time he could have extras he could send to other farmers.
"I like to keep my local market going and as soon as I have a surplus I will help them out," says Bouwman.
September 26, 2012