Pumpkin farmers reap harvest, despite ‘struggles’ with too much rain

Capitol Connection

RICHMOND, Va. — Two hundred pumpkins now have new homes after being dropped off at the Executive Mansion.

“This is one of our favorite times of year,” Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Virginia) said.

Recalling his time on his family farm, Gov. Northam proclaimed it Virginia Pumpkin Month.

“I always looked forward to this time of year to pick out the perfect pumpkin and to carve it,” he said.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says agriculture is the leading industry in the Commonwealth, with the pumpkin crop bringing in over $11 million. 2,300 acres of pumpkins grow here.

Kids gathered around a big red pick up filled with pumpkins of all different shapes and sizes. The Governor lending a hand with some of the young ones, bringing the pumpkins to the side of the mansion.

The pumpkins made big trip Brann & King Pumpkin Farm in Montgomery County, tuckering out even the smallest of farmers.

“She loves playing in the pumpkins, and everything she can get her hands on,” Joshua Long said of the 10-month-old girl, Savannah. She was fast asleep in mom Kaylee Long’s arms.

For over a decade, Joshua Long and his dad have been helping out at the farm. This season, the Longs’ and over 200 pumpkin farmers across the Commonwealth are keeping an eye on the rain.

“It’s been a very wet season,” Long said.

According to the Virginia Farm Bureau, pumpkin farmers are seeing differences in their crop because of where they’re located. Some are seeing a good harvest because they had just enough rain. Others are seeing too much, which can cause the roots to rot. It’s too early to tell how the harvest will turn out.

Long says the water is also making it hard to pick the crop.  

“The pumpkins are laying in the field sopping wet and we’re not able to get the trucks and the tractors in the field to get the pumpkins out. So that’s been the biggest struggle,” he said.

The farm took precautions before Hurricane Florence after serious flooding a few seasons ago.

“Back in 2015, some of the pumpkins floated ten miles away [to the river]. So this year, we have to rush and get them out of the floodplain,” he explained.  

Brann & King Pumpkin Farm lost about 5 to 10 percent of their crop that year.

Farm Bureau officials say it’s too early to tell how the harvest will turn out. For Brann & King Farm, the pumpkins are looking good so far – just in time for the kids to pick ‘em.

It’s exciting for Long to see the kids’ reaction.

“To see the kids’ face light up when they see the pumpkin, to us it’s just an everyday thing but to them, it’s very special,” he said.

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