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Bumper pumpkin crop despite drought

(Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com)
Hundreds of pumpkins are ready for customers at Goebbert's Pumpkin and Farm Market in Hampshire on Thursday, September 27, 2012.
(Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com)
The largest pumpkins grown on the farm this year are displayed for customers at Goebbert's Pumpkin and Farm Market in Hampshire on Thursday, September 27, 2012.
(Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com)
Avery Berndt, 2, of Crystal Lake plays in the pumpkin field while enjoying a day at Goebbert's Pumpkin and Farm Market in Hampshire on Thursday, September 27, 2012.

Corn and soybeans could learn a thing or two from pumpkins.

Too hot? They'll manage. Too dry? They'll make do.

In a year row crops are turning up below average yields, pumpkins are right on course.

"The crop is very good," said Lloyd Goebbert, owner of Goebbert's Pumpkin and Farm Market in Hampshire. "We caught a couple timely rains and everything looks beautiful – good and healthy, good color, good stems. Really happy with the quantity and it looks really good for the fall."

A couple timely rains is really all it takes. Diane Handley, a manager for the Illinois Growers Association, said the orange squash don't need much to thrive. Only under extreme drought conditions do pumpkins struggle, she said.

"Part of the reason that pumpkins have fared better in a drought than row crops is pumpkins can withstand heat better than row crops," Handley said. "And the lack of rain actually helps pumpkins curtail disease. They do need rain, but not as much."

Handley added that not all of Illinois, the country's largest producer of pumpkins, steered clear of the extreme conditions that can effect pumpkins.

"In a nutshell, the pumpkin crop in Illinois is very good this year. Processing pumpkins is right on target. Jack-o-lanterns for the most part are very good, too," she said. "But in Southern Illinois, deep Southern Illinois, we did have quite a bit of loss of crop."

More than 90 percent of processed pumpkins – those that are processed into canned pumpkin and canned pie mix – grown in the United States come from Illinois, according to the University of Illinois Extension.

Locally, there are plenty of jack-o-lantern-style pumpkins to go around as well.

Goebbert said the pumpkins came up a week or two ahead of time, but the crop will stretch to Halloween without a problem.

Goebbert's is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through October. They opened for the first time last weekend.

"We've got a nice crowd," Goebbert said. "I was very happy with the turnout we had [this week]."

Vernon Stade, owner of Stade's Farm and Market, said he has a similarly full crop of pumpkins for sale this year.

The McHenry farm plants pumpkins the first week of June. Stade said they reached maturity right on schedule this year.

"Pumpkins are actually one of the better crops that we've had," Stade said. "I actually irrigated mine a couple times during the summer when it got really dry. We had probably not enough rain."

Stade's has a fall festival, Shades of Autumn, going on every weekend through October.

"I think the crop is maybe even better than last year," he said.

Pumpkin patches:Pumpkin patch options in McHenry County include:• Goebbert's Pumpkin and Farm Market, 42W813 Reinking Road, Hampshire; (847) 464-5952 • Stade's Farm and Market 3709 Miller Road, McHenry; 815-675-6396

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