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Local Pumpkin Farmer Faces Challenges in Missouri

If there’s one fruit that exemplifies October, it’s the pumpkin.
KSMU’s Kristian Kriner took a tour of a local pumpkin patch and spoke with a farmer about how the economy is affecting his business, and why Missouri is not the ideal place to grow pumpkins.
Pale green vines creeping across fields of orange, shiny pumpkins are what pumpkin patch owner Ted Jones calls his life’s work.
Jones owns the Jones Farm off of Highway 65 in northeast Springfield.
He says originally, the farm was a “pick-your-own” strawberry patch owned by his parents.
But 23 years ago, he and his wife converted the fields to a pumpkin patch.

“On Sundays, I would drive around to farms and see what seemed to draw the most interest. And I thought a pumpkin patch would draw a lot of interest, so that’s why we started it here,” Jones said.

Jones moved to Springfield from Connecticut, where he was a landscape contractor.
He says the current economic climate has resulted in fewer customers this year.

“Well, I see a big difference. I see a big difference in what people buy and I’ve never seen in 23 years, I’ve never seen the economy influence how much people spend here, but it is this year,” Jones said.

He says he starts planting pumpkins in May.
Jones says Missouri is a hard place to grow pumpkins because the weather changes constantly.
Also, he says the amount of rain this year made it even harder.

“It certainly didn’t make it any easier. We were late in getting everything planted because it was so wet and believe it or not it was wet through July and then August was extremely dry in this particular area. We only had three-tenths of an inch of rain and we were running drip irrigation every single day. So, we went from extremely wet to extremely dry,” Jones said.

Jones says if there’s bad weather in the middle of October, then pumpkin sales plummet.
He says he sold at least a quarter of a million pounds of pumpkins last year and has thousands of pumpkins this year.
Jones took me on a tour of the pumpkin patch, and showed me this year’s biggest trend: the warty pumpkin.
Jones offers a few tips on how to choose the best pumpkin.

“You want a good shape. You want a good color, a good orange color, plenty of height to put a good face on, and above all you want a good strong stem,” Jones said.

Jones says he and his wife usually see 35,000 visitors at their pumpkin patch each fall.
For KSMU News, I’m Kristian Kriner.