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posted: 10/22/2013 1:19 PM

Plenty of pumpkins this year, local growers say

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  • A large selection of pumpkins in all sizes and colors is available at Goebbert's Pumpkin Patch in Hampshire.

       A large selection of pumpkins in all sizes and colors is available at Goebbert's Pumpkin Patch in Hampshire.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Vincent Izquierdo provides a free lift to Maria Gandara-Mejia, along with some pumpkins they picked recently at Goebbert's Pumpkin Patch in Hampshire. Both are from Lake in the Hills.

       Vincent Izquierdo provides a free lift to Maria Gandara-Mejia, along with some pumpkins they picked recently at Goebbert's Pumpkin Patch in Hampshire. Both are from Lake in the Hills.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

 

Pumpkin growers don't have anything to complain about this year.

Unlike last year's drought, rain fell when it needed to and nighttime temperatures dropped to where they did the best for their crops.

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As a result, pumpkins are fat, their stems are sturdy and gourds, Indian corn, corn stalks and all other fall decorations are showing their best.

"The pumpkin stems are thick, and that's good," said Carlo Scheffler, the market manager for Goebbert's Farms in Hampshire. "When people shop for pumpkins, one of the things they look at is the stems. Thick stems are important."

"Our corn stalks even look good," said Lloyd Goebbert. "We had a little hail in July, and that worried me, but it didn't turn out to be anything."

His family grows 80 acres of pumpkins in the northern Kane County village. In South Barrington, they have more land set aside for the Halloween staple.

"This year, we are averaging from 10 to 15 tons an acre (in Hampshire)," he said.

Some are sold at the Route 47 store on his property; the rest are taken to Chicago to be sold.

Like other crops, weather is everything for pumpkins, a crop grown on the vine. When summers are too wet, as was the case three years ago, a fungus enters the soil and the stem and rots them in the field.

In last year's drought, pumpkins were smaller, and field corn, which many people buy for decorations, fried under the hot sun.

For pumpkin farmers, timing is everything. Their selling season is pretty much contained to a month when people put up decorations.

"But it's different from last year," said Christine Gaitsch, who owns Randy's Farmstand, along with her husband, Randy. "We had cooler nights this year. The gourds are good and the Indian corn is beautiful."

The Gaitsches grow pumpkins on 10 acres. Their farm stand is along Randall Road in Sleepy Hollow.

With everything in place and the weather cooperating, it's up to shoppers to make all the farmers' hard work worthwhile.

"Business has been steady, but customers are still a little cautious," Gaitsch said. "People are buying pumpkins, but they are not buying the extras as in past years."

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