Cold Temperatures Devastate Utah Pumpkin Crops

Oct 16, 2019, 8:27 PM

CENTERFIELD, Utah — As Halloween gets closer, Utahns may be less likely to get a Jack-o-lantern-worthy pumpkin after temperatures in the teens left hundreds of tons of pumpkins frozen in central Utah.

Last week’s cold spell, combined with a cold, wet spring and aggressive weeds, devastated the state’s pumpkin crop, according to farmers.

“The feeling in the pumpkin community is it’s pretty severe, and most of the stores have been warned that they’re not going to have pumpkins through to the end,” said David Beck with Beck Family Farms. “I’ve canceled five semis that are supposed to go into this warehouse. I’ll send this last one in that’s ready to load today, but then that will be the last one that goes there.”

The farm normally produces around 3,000 tons of pumpkins, which it ships to nearly every standalone grocery store in Utah.

However, Beck said the cold weather has left most of his pumpkins soft.

“It’s soft…so it looks good until you get it to the store, (but) if you put it on your porch, instead of a pumpkin to throw away, you’re going to have a pile of stuff you’re going to have to remove with a scoop shovel,” he said.

That freeze, along with poor conditions earlier this year, put the state’s overall crop down by 50%. Beck said his farm lost 80% of the pumpkins that were left in the field last week.

“We went three days in a row, that we were in the teens,” Beck said. “We hit a 17 and then a 14, 14 degrees, and then 18 degrees, three nights in a row. Soon as you get below 25 degrees, you’re going to start seeing some frost on your pumpkins. We’re not sure what there will be next week, but we don’t want anyone depending on pumpkins next week from us. We’ve let our Associated stores know that we probably won’t have anything to deliver after this week.”

Beck said stores may be able to ship in pumpkins from nearby states to stock up, but those last few days before Halloween — often a profitable time for farmers — could be rather lean this year, for farmers and stores, alike.

“Normally, those last day sales can be really big. I believe that there will be very few pumpkins available Halloween night,” he said. “Some of the stores may think ahead and stock up. I can’t tell you that every store will be out…they can ship some in from Texas or Arizona. I don’t know what that will do to the price of them.”

As far as his farm goes, Beck said they’re able to get through the occasional bad year.

“It’s quite a concern. I hope my banker’s not listening,” he said with a laugh. “Any farmer that survives very long, builds into the idea that you’re going to have some really bad years, and you better be in shape.”

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Cold Temperatures Devastate Utah Pumpkin Crops