Pumpkins may be harder to find for last-minute shoppers

Friday, October 30, 2009

Eleventh-hour shoppers may have to work a little harder this year to find that ideal pumpkin to turn into a jack-o'-lantern.

An informal telephone survey of local food stores and produce vendors found that availability of carving pumpkins was spotty in the Cape Girardeau area.

Terri Callis, produce manager of Food Giant in Cape Girardeau, said her store ran out of pumpkins Wednesday and that they will not be getting any more in.

"We're done for the season," said Callis, who said that this was an excellent year for pumpkin sales.

Josh Streiler of the produce department at Country Mart in Jackson said that store has completed its pumpkin season after running out Wednesday, citing the end of availability from local suppliers.

Schnucks managers were in meetings and unavailable for comment Thursday, but an employee who asked not to be identified said the store was low on pumpkins briefly last week but now has a good supply. He said that soggy conditions kept the local growers who supply them from getting into the field to harvest for a few days, leading to the brief shortage.

Walmart Supercenter store manager Tim Bryant said his store has had no interruptions in pumpkin availability.

"I'm not aware of any shortage," said Bryant, whose store uses Walmart's warehouse for most of their pumpkin supply. "If our warehouse runs short, we have a local supplier that will keep us from running out."

Two of the local growers who provide pumpkins to local supermarkets said it has been a great season for pumpkin farming.

"We've got plenty on hand right now," said David Diebold of Diebold Orchards in Benton, Mo. Diebold said they grow 15 to 20 varieties of pumpkins on about 12 acres, including the those that are the right size, shape and color for carving into jack-o'-lanterns.

While Diebold has a lot of pumpkins available in their retail store, he said that dwindling supplies have led them to cut off sales to their wholesale customers such as food stores.

Sam Beggs of Pioneer Market in Jackson said they grow most of the pumpkins they sell in their store and that they still have a good supply.

Beggs said the quality of this year's pumpkin crop is "really good," an opinion echoed by Callis of Food Giant.

"They were consistent in size, they were dark orange, and they had good stems," Callis said.

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