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Lack of rain impacting the size of pumpkins on local farms

The experts say pumpkins are a little smaller this year

It's not a trick, local farmers agree pumpkins are smaller this year and drought-like conditions are to blame.

"I would say they are 10, 15 per cent smaller," said Channing Strom, from Strom's Farm & Bakery, which sells 16 to 18 varieties of pumpkins in the fall. "We go by weight, and so there isn't as much moisture in the pumpkins this year."

This year, Strom said their farm brought in 9,000 pumpkins and have another four to five-thousand in the fields. It's less than what the farm produces in a regular season.

"We count them as we bring them in and half of our acreage didn't produce much at all, and so this was the other half, and they produced all of it," he said.

Some pumpkin varieties appear to be doing well, like the specialty pumpkins, but baking pumpkins also shrunk in size.

"They're probably about half the size," said Strom, adding it will make a pie and a half instead of two pies.

Compared to other farmers he's spoken with in the area and neighbouring regions, Strom said they feel blessed for the pumpkins they did get.

"We had heard a farmer, a pumpkin guy in Ayr (Ontario) , didn't even open," said Strom. "They were in a high spot. The farm is a little bit higher than some of the valleys there and when it rains, nothing sticks. It's crazy."

Besides pumpkins, other crops seen this season have also been affected by the weather conditions. 

Janet Harrop, executive of the Wellington Federation of Agriculture, said soybeans and sweet corn were impacted and speculated all three may have received less water during their fertilization periods.

“It would affect the number of the plant, and for sure, the size of the plant,” said Harrop. 

Strom, who also grows sweet corn, noticed the lack of rain has impacted the crop.

"This was our first year without doing sweet corn in the summer, so people were quite surprised about that too," he said. 

Harrop adds a lack of rain can also impact soil health. Without regular, gentle, rainfall, the soil can dry up and form a crust, which may prevent water from being properly absorbed by the ground.

“If you don’t have plants growing, you tend to have more weeds and pests as well, because you have open space, and it’s a whole ecosystem that’s impacted," said Harrop.

"To be successful this year, you have to supplement with water, which can be a difficult thing to do."

When it comes to droughts, Strom said there is still a real disconnect between what customers understand about it and what it does for what they eat and what they buy.

"I think there's been improvements in past years in trying to make those connections, you know, buying local and getting people out to the farm here," said Strom, adding there is still work to go.

Regardless of the rain, residents will still be able to find the perfect pumpkin for their Jack-O-Lantern.

"As far as carving goes, we have plenty of pumpkins," said Amy Strom, who also manages Strom's Farm and Bakery.

For medium-sized pumpkins, Strom's offers kratos, rhey, cronus, wolf, thumpkin and jumpin jack. Amy said the best carving pumpkin to choose depends on the type of face you want to create.

"If you're doing a face that might be a bit long, then you do the wolf, whereas if you need something that's a bit more rounder, you could do the kratos, cronus or the rhey."