Pumpkin crop is scarce, more costly this season

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Pumpkins are expected to be more expensive and harder to find this Halloween season.

That's the case at the Corn Crib Nursery in Coal Valley. Extreme weather nearly wiped out its entire homegrown crop. Thanks to drought, retail prices could jump 30%

"Prices are going to go up," said Corn Crib co-owner Duane White. "I hate to do that, but you have to do what you have to do."

At Country Corner in Alpha, pumpkin prices will stay at 2011 levels. That's .39 per pound. Owner Bruce Curry battled drought with special seeds, drip irrigation and constant care. He grows about 15 varieties on his Henry County farm.

"The average basketball-sized pumpkin looks like its going to be in the $5-6 range," he said. "If you want a really nice quality pumpkin with a big stem, $8-10."

Curry says that larger pumpkins actually weigh less because of the drought. A pumpkin that cost $10 last year will likely cost $8 this year.

"I'll be out a little bit of money," he said.

Since drought drove up the cost of growing pumpkins, it will likely cut into sellers' profits. At Country Corner, they'll make up the difference with other agri-tourism activities like school tours and weekend events.

Country Corner brings in about 25% of its pumpkins from other farms. But suppliers in southern Illinois could only wish for a crop like Curry's.

"The stems are dry, and they're starting to shrivel up," Curry said about the wholesale pumpkins. "So if a big company like that is hurting on pumpkins, it's going to affect the price."

Back at the Corn Crib, the search is on for wholesale pumpkins. But it also sparks quality control worries about the out-of-state truckloads.

"The economy has people on edge," White said. "It affects everybody, including me."

Prepare for fewer pumpkins that cost more this Halloween season.

"There will be pumpkins this year," Curry concluded. "They'll be tight, and prices will be high."