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Halloween pumpkin shortage? Sounds eerily familiar

October 24, 2011 | 12:41 pm

Pumpkins

Stop us if you've heard the one about a pumpkin shortage come this Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Each year, it seems, there's a flurry of news reports about the scarcity of seasonal pumpkins -- with many of them playing off the beloved Peanuts comic strip, using coy headlines along the lines of "The Great Pumpkin Shortage." And, of course, the stories raise the prospect of little boys and girls going without a carved jack-o'-lantern.

Exhibit A: You can find 2009 pumpkin shortage stories here and here, and 2010 pumpkin shortage stories here and here, and 2011 pumpkin shortage stories here and here.

This time around, the coverage boasts a greater-than-usual air of authenticity. MSNBC, for one, is blaming a triple threat for the reported shortage gripping the East Coast. A wet spring led to a late planting; a wet summer led to an outbreak of phytophthora fungus among pumpkin crops; and then a hurricane named Irene did its thing.

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We don't doubt that weather caused problems for many of the nation's farmers. "The wet weather just rots a pumpkin, just rots it," Randi Vogel of Hunt Club Farm in Virginia Beach, Va., told WTKR-TV.

She said that she's charging three times what she normally would for small pumpkins to make up for those lost this season. The station also talked to Roy Flanagan, another East Coast farmer, whose entire pumpkin crop was rotted out by the rain.

Pumpkins seem to be a fragile crop, relying on dry weather for peak production. So at what point do we have a legitimate shortage -- and at what point do we have an average growing year in which some pumpkin crops make it, and some don't?

Good question; tough answer. Nonetheless, we reserve the right to poke fun at the media -- us included -- for breathlessly reporting such news each year.

We put in a call to Nestle USA to ask how its Libby's canned pumpkin supplies were holding up. We hadn't heard back from the company by the time we posted this story. But we'll let you know immediately if we catch any cinnamon-y whiff of a shortfall.

Because a shortage of pumpkin pies this Thanksgiving would be really scary.

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— Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: A pumpkin patch in Half Moon Bay, Calif. Credit: Miramar Events

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