The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

October 16, 2012

Cool weather boosts pumpkin crop

MIFFLINBURG — Wholesale pumpkin prices have reverted to more “normal” fees of $80 to $120 a bin, according to the manager at the Buffalo Valley Produce Auction, which annually sells more than 100,000 pumpkins.

“This is a fair year, in terms of pricing,” Ryan Herrold said. “The spike in prices last year, a jump of almost 75 percent to about $180 a bin, was due to crop damage caused by the heavy rains, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. That’s certainly not been the case in 2012.”

Weather-wise, this has been a good year for growing the crop, he said.

Cooler, less humid weather during the latter part of the summer provided ideal pumpkin-growing conditions.

The Buffalo Valley Produce Auction, one of the largest on the East Coast, sells produce by the bin, not individually, Herrold said. “Each bin can have a few large pumpkins or hundreds of smaller ones. This year, when all is said and done, we’ll have auctioned off 8,000 bins.”

Most of the pumpkins and decoratives sold are grown by local farmers. But this year, produce from New York, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio has been put on sale.

“It might take us until after Halloween to sell them all,” Herrold said. Auction days are Tuesdays and Thursdays, with multiple auctions often stretching from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

He cautioned that the auction price does not necessarily translate to the price at the retail level.

The pumpkin season starts in late August and can run right through Halloween, Herrold said.

The Buffalo Valley auction sells regular-sized pumpkins, gourds, butternut squash, blue hubbard squash and decoratives like jack be little pumpkins, mystic pumpkins and straw bales.

On Tuesday, a 780-pound pumpkin was auctioned off — no details were available on the price — but the buyer was from Connecticut, Herrold said.

Every day, trucks and vans filled with pumpkins arrive and leave for points all over the East Coast.

“We sell to retailers everywhere, but a number of our bigger buyers seem to be from New York,” Herrold said. “Like our Christmas tree sale period, we have a great reputation and a central location, easy to get to and ship from. The Connecticut buyer, he bought the big pumpkin and a lot more. We have also had buyers so far this year from New Jersey, Ohio, New York and Maryland. Pennsylvania, too, of course.”

Meanwhile, Mark O’Neill, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said: “With a good overall pumpkin crop statewide, I haven’t heard reports of any significant price increase from a year ago. Local farm markets and farms with pick-your-own pumpkins are reportedly doing good business and have not had to dramatically increase prices. Meanwhile, wholesale pumpkin sales can vary from region to region and based on where the pumpkins are going.”

The U.S. De­part­ment of Agriculture said the top pumpkin-producing states are Illinois, California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Mich­igan.

Ninety percent of the pumpkins grown in the Uni­­ted States are raised within 90 miles of Peoria, Ill.

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