Leaves are already changing colors in Michigan, and Starbucks is already serving up its pumpkin spice lattes. Yes, it’s fall in Michigan.
As consumers line sidewalks for Michigan ag-tourism spots, fall-season images of apple cider, doughnuts, and pumpkins metaphorically dance in their heads. But at what cost to the consumer?
Each year, millions of people visit pumpkin patches to pick out the ideal jack-o-lantern pumpkin. Decorations inside homes are just the start. Others who aren’t into decorating the gourd can make pumpkin pies or pumpkin butter. (Find some other ideas here.)
This year, however, might be a little different for Michigan consumers, local farmers say.
Amid the seasons changing, state pumpkin growers are dealing with many challenges due to a wet spring planting season. This has all but delayed harvest season.
Now, farmers are anticipating an average pumpkin crop, which could affect price points.
At Tannenbaum Farms, the farm produces between about 2,000 to 3,000 pumpkins per season. Here, a pumpkin can sell anywhere from $1 to $10 depending on size.
“We will have pumpkins, but we won’t have size,” said Mel Koelling, owner of the Mason-based farm. “We will have a lot of 15- to 20-pound pumpkins. We wish we had 35- to 40-pound pumpkins, and they’re not going to be here this year.”
For farms that sell pumpkins based on size, Koelling said this is financially significant.
“At this point, we’ll make out at $5 or $6 (per pumpkin),” he said. “So, if you look at losing perhaps $4 a pumpkin for maybe a thousand pumpkins, that has some impact on the bottom line.”
According to Nate Gust, co-owner of Gust Brothers Pumpkin Farm LLC, success of the pumpkin crop is contingent upon August rains. Unfortunately, some of the rains in Southeast Michigan “were too big,” he said, as the farm took on 3-inch and 2-inch rain events this summer.
“This spring was a real big challenge for us,” Gust said. “Obviously, like most people in the state of Michigan, we were super wet in May and June. We like to plant our pumpkins (June) 5, but unfortunately, due to the wet conditions, we planted most of them the 10th and 17th of June.”
Gust Brothers Pumpkin Farm grows everything from pie pumpkins to decorative pumpkins. Besides farming 1,000 acres of field crops, the family grows 38 acres of pumpkins. Guests at their Ottawa Lake farm can go on hayrides, purchase cider and pick pumpkins.
Weather headwinds are expected to create an average crop, according to Gust, which could have a domino effect on the consumer. Nationally, the USDA’s Economic Research Service reports retail prices for pumpkins were up in September 2018 by 6 percent from the previous year.
“We are waiting for things to catch up a bit,” Gust said, “It just made for a real challenge this summer.”