This year has featured more than its fair share of hardship. Can we add a pumpkin shortage to 2020’s mix, too? We heard about news reports indicating there might be less of the pie filling to go around for Thanksgiving. So, we did a little digging.
We reached out to a couple of researchers to get a pulse on this season’s crop. Mohammad Babadoost, a crop sciences Professor at the University of Illinois, has been all over the state during the past month and is not seeing any issues of concern. “Based on Illinois pumpkin production, I do not expect any pumpkin shortage this year,” he said.
Illinois leads the U.S. in pumpkin production and harvesting – by a lot. The Land of Lincoln produced more than 500 million pounds of the cucurbit crop in 2018, according to USDA statistics.
In Minnesota, this season’s pumpkin crop appears to be anything but coming up short. Annie Klodd, Extension Educator – Fruit and Vegetable Production at the University of Minnesota, says local growers are reporting good news from the field. Of those she just spoke with about this topic, all were on the same page: “We’re having about the best crop we could hope for …”
While the COVID-19 crisis has greatly impacted farmers in many ways, the demand for local food is huge right now, including pumpkins. This is another positive factor Klodd is hearing from the field.
We also contacted canned pumpkin producer Libby’s for a status check. A company spokesperson replied: “The team in Illinois is currently working hard harvesting our Libby’s pumpkins and canning for the upcoming bake season. We typically begin shipping to retailers around this time, so you can expect to see pumpkin back on shelves over the next few weeks.”
A decade ago, we were reporting a different story. From September 2010:
Many growers in the Midwest are anticipating a marginal pumpkin season this year, WKYC in Cleveland reports. The questionable season likely is a result of too much moisture, particularly in June. Some pumpkins have rotted in fields, and bees necessary for pollination didn’t leave their hives because they prefer dry weather.
Last year’s pumpkin pie filling shortage could be repeated this year, as well. “It’s going to be a marginal season,” said Bill Shoemaker, senior research specialist for food crop agriculture at the University of Illinois. “We think there will be a crop, but I think the folks at the canneries are really concerned about whether or not it’s going to be enough to meet demand. It’s going to be tight.”
Libby’s, the country’s largest producer of canned pumpkin, prepared for the possibility of another shortage by planting more acreage, and planting earlier. “We are in a much better situation than we were last year,” said Libby’s Roz O’Hearn.
Some pumpkin growers in Minnesota are saying their crops are average, especially if they planted in sandy soil.