Pumpkins Shortages Might Be Exaggerated, but Still Tough Times for Many Growers

Things are looking a little better for pumpkins for some who grow them as the holiday season fast approaches.

In Illinois, which produces the most pumpkins by far among the U.S. states, Raghela Scavuzzo told ABC News: “We were really concerned early on in the season with the summer, with the drought, followed by a lot of rain. But we're really happy to announce that overall, this is gonna be a pretty good pumpkin season.”

Scavuzzo is associate director of food systems development for the Illinois Farm Bureau. The state produced over 650 million pounds of pumpkins in 2021, more than the next five top states combined.

Illinois is also home to two large pumpkin processing plants. The biggest is Nestle Libby in Morton, which considers itself the Pumpkin Capital of the World. This plant produces over 85 percent of the canned pumpkins sold in the U.S.

Nearly 18,000 acres of pumpkins were planted in Illinois in 2021, with 97 percent of those going to processing plants.

But record rainfall this past summer  in Kentucky led Nathan Huyck, the owner of Huyck Farms in Paducah, to tell ABC News for a late September report: “We went out, probably a month ago, and just the blooms weren't opening, and we couldn't hardly find any pumpkins.”

 In Texas, Mark Carroll, a Texas A&M extension agent for Floyd County, which he calls the “pumpkin capital” of the state, told the Associated Press: “It’s one of the worst years we’ve had in several years.”

The AP spoke with pumpkin farmers in various states for a report about the crop’s possible deterioration.

“Irrigation costs more as groundwater levels continue to drop — driving some farmers’ energy bills to pump water into the thousands of dollars every month,” it said in its report dated October 30, carrying a Hudson, Colo., dateline.

Colorado farmer Alan Mazzotti told the wire service that his harvest wasn’t near what it had been in previous years because he’d planted when water was limited.

“By [the] time it started raining, and the rain started to affect our reservoir supplies and everything else, it was just too late for this year,” he told the AP.

In New Mexico, farmer Steven Ness said: “Our real problem is groundwater … the lack of deep moisture and the lack of water in the aquifer.”

According to the AP report, some pumpkin farmers’ yields dropped 20% or more from what they expected for this year.

It pointed out that the groundwater problem will not soon go away.

“Aquifers can take hundreds or thousands of years to refill after overuse, and climate change is reducing the very rain and snow needed to recharge them in the arid West,” the wire service said in its pumpkin report.

But to Kirk Bergeron, owner of KC Pumpkin Patch in Olathe, Kansas, all the talk about pumpkin shortages is a rumor for profit.

“I don't know who starts the rumor. I think it is done so that it rushes people out to get a pumpkin,” he told Kansas City’s KMBC TV.

What is Thanksgiving dessert without a slice of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream?