Hot, dry weather affecting East Tennessee fall pumpkin crops

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JEFFERSON CITY (WATE) – East Tennesseans are feeling more summer heat this week as fall is about to begin, and despite some rain over the weekend, this summer has been incredibly dry.

Many pumpkin patches are getting ready to open for the fall season, and the weather is affecting the crops.

“It’s timing, you know. It’s hard to just snap your fingers and have a good pumpkin crop,” said Charlie Simpson.

He runs Echo Valley Corn Maze and grows hundreds of acres of crops each year, including about 44 acres of pumpkins this year which will be featured at the corn maze and sold wholesale. Right now, the corn mazes are set and pumpkins are out for distribution just in time for fall.

This year you might see fewer pumpkins at the patches, and the unusual heat we have seen partially to blame.

“A lot of people don’t realize it, but the little honeybee is the absolute feeder of the nation and they don’t work when it’s real hot so our pumpkins didn’t pollinate good,” Simpson said.

On the bright side, the pumpkins you do find might be better quality thanks to the dry summer season.

“If it’s a rainy season and the pumpkins are full of water, they tend to rot really quick. But the pumpkins this year, what you get in this area, will hold up pretty good,” Simpson said.

There is no sure way for farmers to tell what kind of crop they will get, so they make the best of the crops they do have as fall arrives.

“You grit your teeth and hold on because it’s like going to Vegas and gambling,” Simpson said. “You have to just go with the flow. It’s a gamble.”

Echo Valley Corn Maze opened to the public last weekend and is open on the weekends through October. Several others in the area will also be opening up this weekend.

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