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Growers: Drought affected pumpkins

No rain, much sun and planting troubles have made local farmers and retailers lose their gourds – pumpkins, that is.

Tuesday, October 19, 1999

No rain, much sun and planting troubles have made local farmers and retailers lose their gourds – pumpkins, that is.

Pumpkin shoppers will be able to see the difference in the number and stature of the Halloween staple.

"The pumpkins do not have size this year," said Bill Shepherd, owner of Buzzy’s Place in Proctorville. "I usually get all pumpkins locally, but my farmer lost more than 50 per cent of his crop, so I had to go to Greenup, Ky. He didn’t have much luck either."

Pumpkins aren’t the only produce that are suffering, either, Shepherd said.

He is facing a shortage of other vegetables, too.

Retailers need not tell the farmers how bad the drought has been on this year’s pumpkins.

Tom and Judy Balmer own and operate The Balmer Pumpkin Patch off Ohio 141. They have seen the drought devastation firsthand.

"There wasn’t enough rain to make the pumpkins grow early," Judy Balmer said. "When the rains came, they tried to grow, and now they can’t seem to turn orange. We probably lost 75 percent of our pumpkin yield."

The Balmers, like many Lawrence County farmers, used an irrigation system to save what pumpkins they had.

"If we didn’t irrigate, it would have been much worse. We wouldn’t have had anything," Mrs. Balmer said. "We have exhibitions at the Ohio State Fair and we had to irrigate just to have an exhibition.

Lawrence County Extension agent David Dyke said if water had not been brought to the fields, there might have been no pumpkins at all.

"A lot of our county saved themselves with irrigation," Dyke said. "People who have dripped in irrigation made it through the drought somewhat. If they used overhead irrigation then they may have lost everything."

Even with modern technology, Mrs. Balmer assessed the drought as one for the history books.

"It was bad, no doubt about it, it is the worst we’ve ever seen," Mrs. Balmer said.