Pumpkin shortage? Depends on where you look

Having trouble finding the perfect pumpkin this year? You might have to go to the source.

While one of the major growers in the capital region scaled back planting plans for pumpkins in the spring — unsure about the pandemic and availability of workers — another plowed ahead.

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Rob Galey initially balked at planting all his usual patches, but decided on extra seeding in May once he knew farm workers from Mexico were coming.

“I’ve got more pumpkins than I’ve ever had,” Galey said Thursday. So far, he’s picked about 500 large bins from his Saanich farm. “I’ve got small ones, big ones, tall and skinny, short and fat, and lots of colours — pink, blue, white, you name it,” said Galey. He sells mostly at the farm gate and directly from his patches, and supplies some to wholesalers who ship them to grocers.

Michell Farms, on the other hand, planted about half the pumpkins it usually does because the farm family wasn’t sure about getting the labour needed or if Halloween was even going to fly. Terry Michell said there will be a “limited supply” this fall. He has harvested about 250 tonnes of pumpkins — far below the normal 400 — and expects them to go fast.

Michell Farms grew more crops that could be stored, such as cabbage, carrots and squash.

Some of the pumpkin crop is wholesaled for purchase in grocery stores — and Michell expects those to sell out first.

Both farms are proceeding with farm-gate sales and patch picking under COVID-19 safety protocols.

Michell Farms is selling pumpkins with minimal contact. They are being sold by width, fitting into one of five slots for between $3 and $20. Groups are limited to six, social-distancing is being monitored and equipment such as field wheelbarrows are being sanitized.

Galey Farms is going ahead with its large-scale Halloween traditions — haunted houses, corn mazes and train rides — but access is severely limited. Tickets have to be booked online.

Galey expects the strict protocols will result in 75% fewer guests this fall.

Pumpkin patch picking is available at two sites. One requires online booking and another is a patch that is open on certain days and hours.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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