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Around The Grange
Local pumpkin crop is early, but healthier this year

By Makayla Silva, CT Post (10/11/10)

  OCTOBER 15, 2010 --

Despite the high temperatures and little rain this past summer, Connecticut farmers have produced plenty of pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns and autumn decor.

Wade Elmer, an agricultural scientist for the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, said, overall, pumpkins have fared better this season than last.

"We had two really extreme summers," he said. "Last year was a terrible year for pumpkins. It was wet and cold, which causes root rots. This year it was hot and the fruit matured early." Elmer said the high temperatures and lack of rain resulted in an earlier pumpkin harvest.

"Pumpkins will be in pretty good shape, but they might not last as long into November as they have in the past," he said.

Although Elmer said the crop is "relatively healthy this year," the size and quantity of the pumpkins might have been effected by the season's temperatures.

"We had so much drought during the month of July that the fruit didn't get as big as it usually does," he said. "So farmers who didn't use outside irrigation were probably at a disadvantage." At the same time, Elmer said the lack of rain was beneficial for pumpkins.

"We didn't have a whole lot of problems with diseases because the rain was down," he said.

Farms across Fairfield County have begun welcoming visitors in search of the perfect pumpkin for their front porches and dining room centerpieces.

In Shelton, the Jones family is celebrating its 25th year of pumpkins at their Pumpkinseed Hill farm at 120 Beardsley Road.

Harvesting more than 50 varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds, visitors can stop at the Market Yard or take a hayride to nearby pumpkin patches and pick their own directly from the vine.

Herb Silverman, owner of Silverman's Farm in Easton, said his pumpkins are enjoying a great season.

"The heat did not affect the pumpkins at all," he said. "Even though they matured earlier, we didn't have any diseases from rain, so they still should last as long." The early rain in the springtime combined with the lack of rain during the summer resulted in a perfect crop, according to Silverman.

He said the dry summer did result in an earlier crop, but, he said, it will not affect his business.

"We never run out of pumpkins," he said. "Ninety percent of the pumpkins will last until Halloween, if they're not kept in a hot place. And it doesn't hurt to wash a pumpkin off with a little soap and water to get rid of any fungus or mold that may be growing on it."

With about 10 varieties of pumpkins including both cinderella and white pumpkins, Silverman said on average, the pumpkins weigh from 2 to 60 pounds each.

For nearly four decades, residents from the tri-state area have been going to Silverman's Farm at 451 Sport Hill Road in hopes of winning a free pumpkin.

Silverman said he started the "guess the weight" tradition, allowing visitors to take home a free pumpkin if they correctly guess its weight.

"We've been doing that for about 40 years, it's a great attraction," Silverman said. "We give away tons of pumpkins. Bells and whistles go off when somebody wins."


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