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Selling the Great Pumpkin

Picking the perfect pumpkin: From left, Makenzie Halvorson and Landon Nathe pick out the perfect pumpkins Sunday at the Buffalo River Pumpkin Patch in Glyndon. Photo by - Carrie Snyder

There may be a few more jack-o'-lanterns smiles this year as many Minnesota and North Dakota pumpkin farmers say the crop has been extra fruitful, enough for at least some Minnesota growers to ship pumpkins out of state.

"It was an unusual year," said Jonna Gorham of Maple Hills Orchard in Frazee, where they have a pumpkin patch.

The bumper crop surprised most people, considering the region's drought.

"With how dry it's been, it's surprising they've been doing as well as they have been," said Randy Nelson, a University of Minnesota Extension educator in Clay County. He said the Clay County pumpkin farmers have fared well this season.

Although it's been so dry, Nelson said temperatures have been favorable for pumpkin growing.

Gary Kircher, owner of Garden Hills Farm in Fertile, Minn., agreed, saying it wasn't overly humid this summer. Garden Hills has a few thousand pumpkins.

Some farmers, like Jean Rodine of Potters Way in Oakes, N.D., said they couldn't even water their pumpkins much. Rodine watered her pumpkins once at the beginning of the season.

Tim Iwen, who farms pumpkins near Arthur, N.D., only watered some of his 30 acres of pumpkins and didn't see much of a difference. He said pumpkins have a "short moisture season," like wheat.

His wheat and pumpkin crops fared better than his soybeans and corn, which need more water, he said.

"Quality seems to real good, not many bad pumpkins," Iwen said. "They got ripe very early this year, and size is good."

The drought probably contributed to the high quality of this year's crop, said Mike Halvorson, owner of the Buffalo River Pumpkin Patch near Glyndon.

The dry ground helped with the shape of the pumpkins, he said, because they wouldn't get stuck in mud and become flat on one side.

The little rain that did come this season seemed to be at just the right time, many of the farmers said.

"We got a shot of rain when we really needed it, and that seemed to carry them through," Rodine said. Potter's Way has about 2 to 3 acres of pumpkins.

Paul Hugunin, director of the Minnesota Grown program for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, said the state usually winds up being a pumpkin exporter.

He said Minnesota grower "have probably had more calls to do so this year than normally" because growing conditions were worse elsewhere.

But he also said the state, which has few large-scale pumpkin producers, likely isn't making a major impact nationally.

Jackie Buckley, a North Dakota State University extension specialist, said North Dakota is typically a pumpkin importer

The plentiful crop has the farmers excited for families to visit their pumpkin patches.

"It's just a beautiful time to get out to the country," Halvorson said.

(Charly Haley writes for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead)