How this year’s weather is impacting the fall harvest and pumpkin picking


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Fall begins Wednesday and that means it is time to get your pumpkins and fall decorations.

Two local businesses, Cook’s Orchard and the Hilger Family Farm, are among those who are now open for fall activities. Both businesses have an abundance of pumpkins, along with additional fruits and vegetables that are being harvested. How has the weather this year impacted the harvest?

Linda Fagen with Cook’s Orchard says the orchard brings their pumpkins in from an outside vendor, but their stocks of apples have been strong this year. It is the biggest crop of apples they have ever had. Fagen says the late season spring snow did not impact their apples, as the tree blossoms were not far enough along in blooming to be damaged. The orchard feels fortunate in this respect.

Elaine Hilger with the Hilger Family Farm says they have a lower quantity of pumpkins this year, but they are a bigger size. The number of pumpkins per plant is down, but this produces a larger size of pumpkin. Typically they start growing pumpkins in the first part of July. They plant them in a greenhouse, then transplant them to a field. Hilger says the rain then came at the right times to allow their fall harvest to be very successful. They have an abundance of strawberries, corn, green beans, squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

However, the pumpkins have dealt with the problem of the recent heat. The vines die in the field over time, but the pumpkins stay there until they are harvested. The hot conditions cause the pumpkins to decay and a fungus is now causing problems. Hilger says the hot weather, combined with moisture, is creating Powdery Mildew, which kills the vines prematurely and can impact the yield and size of pumpkins. The vines are continuing to die off, meaning very little new pumpkin growth is occurring.

The biggest challenge both businesses have faced is a shortage of workers as a result of the pandemic. At the same time, the pandemic has also been a blessing, as people can safely visit outdoors.

For more information on both businesses, including hours and offerings, visit Cook’s Orchard and the Hilger Family Farm at their respective websites.

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