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Bumper pumpkin harvest expected

A bumper pumpkin crop may result in some of the crop being left in the fields.

“The demand is good, but there will probably be too many pumpkins to be used up this year,” said Larry McIntosh, CEO of Peak of the Market. “Right across Canada, everybody had a good crop.”

High temperatures and drier conditions this year seemed to favour both pumpkins and squash, he said.

“Everything I hear sounds like a record crop in Manitoba, not just for our growers, but for growers in general,” said McIntosh.

At times, getting pumpkins to turn their trademark orange can be a challenge. Not so this year, said George Schwabe of Schwabe Pumpkins north of Winnipeg.

The third-generation vegetable grower said even his often hard-to-ripen butternut squash were mature and ready to pick ahead of schedule.

“We also grow a lot of unusual pumpkins, a lot of multi-coloured ones, and some of them get into the 120 days and over,” he said. “Some years that means cutting it close.”

After a few years of wet weather and unpredictable conditions, Schwabe welcomed this summer’s hot weather, even if he did a little irrigating along the way.

“The fields we could irrigate, we did, but we got rain when it mattered the most, so I really can’t complain,” he said.

Over the last 10 years, Schwabe has expanded his pumpkin patch from one acre to 15, making fall vegetables the focus of his business. He described pumpkins as a great way to increase the “fun factor,” adding they are far more pleasant to harvest than cucumbers.

“When we’re selling them, we set up a huge display and we get all the kids coming in that are so excited,” he said. “It’s great.”

Wins again

Henry Banman was also pleased with the way the weather treated his pumpkin patch this year, although he’s not looking for the same qualities as other pumpkin growers.

“I had heard that you could grow giant pumpkins, so I tried it, and ever since I was hooked,” said the competitive pumpkin grower.

The enthusiast from Schanzenfeld took first place in the Roland Pumpkin Fair’s pumpkin weigh-off Oct. 6 with a pumpkin that tipped the scales at 1,242.5 pounds — just slightly under his record-breaking 1,379.5-pound entry last year.

“We’ll see how it goes this year,” he said in an interview before the weigh-off, adding he leaves his pumpkin on the vine until the day before it’s weighed — even if it’s snowing.

Although pumpkins are the star attraction, the fair includes weigh-offs for other produce including watermelon. Roland Pumpkin Fair chair Art Cameron had the biggest watermelon at 167 pounds.

According to Statistics Canada, 6,895 acres of pumpkins were planted in 2010, with an estimated farm gate value of $15.3 million.

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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