ERIE, Colo. – An Erie farm was hit hard by the October snowstorm that swept through the state and killed crops, but employees were able to save enough pumpkins for fall visitors.
Halloween is the busiest time of year for Anderson Farms with more than 100,000 visitors expected to pass through and take part in the many fall activities. It’s also a popular destination for school groups.
Each Memorial Day, the farm plants 30 acres of the crop, growing nearly 300,000 pumpkins in all. The farm grows roughly 70 different varieties of pumpkins so that there are plenty of options for people to pick from.
This year, however, Mother Nature has not been kind. In August, a hailstorm wiped out about 30 percent of the farm’s crop.
That hailstorm completely destroyed Mile High Farms’ pumpkin crop in Bennett, causing it to close for the entire season, according to the farm’s Facebook.
Then in October, a snowstorm moved through Erie and other parts of the state, causing havoc on farms.
“It got down to nine degrees overnight, which is a little bit too cold for most pumpkins to survive,” said Rachelle Wegele, the operations manager for Anderson Farms. “We ended up losing about 90% of our crop.”
The patches that were not hit by the August hailstorm were able to weather the snowstorm better than the others since their vines and leaves had not been damaged and were able to insulate them from the cold better.
This is the third time in about a decade that the farm’s crops have been damaged by bad weather; there was a bad storm that came through in 2009 and another one last year.
“It’s just kind of part of being a farmer in Colorado you know that the weather may not be your friend and your hope that mother nature is kind to you,” Wegele said. “We are just used to having to think on our feet and doing the best we can with the circumstances that we are given.”
Anderson Farms is not alone in the damage from the snowstorm; many other farms and pumpkin patches throughout the state were hit hard as well.
The pumpkin business is a risky one; pumpkins is not covered by insurance like other crops, such as corn. That means it’s up to farms to figure out a way to survive through the losses.
Wegele spends a lot of time paying attention to weather reports to try to protect the crops as best as she can and prepare for the worst.
That forethought is one of the reasons that before the snowstorm hit, employees at the farm scrambled to pick as many pumpkins as they could to store in a massive barn in time for Halloween.
“They in about four days were able to pick up four acres of pumpkins, so we were pretty impressed with how many pumpkins were picked before the storm hit,” Wegele said.
Employees were able to pick enough to get the farm through the season. It did bring in some pumpkins from other farms to make sure it had enough to give out to every student on a field trip to take home.
“We still have quite a few crates full of pumpkins that have been saved from before the storm,” Wegele said.
A couple of fields managed to survive, however, allowing for pumpkin picking to still happen on the farm.
Beyond the patch, Wegele said the farm has worked hard to make sure there are plenty of fall activities for families even if it has a bad pumpkin year. The farm has a corn maze, campfire sites, a jumping pillow, playgrounds, train rides, a petting zoo, haunted attractions and even a zombie paintball adventure.
“By offering lots of activities, the pumpkins are just one of the many things we offer here,” Wegele said.
Anderson Farms did put up a post on its website warning would-be visitors about the damage to the pumpkins and the fact that there are fewer out in the fields for people to physically pick.
Despite this, Wegele said the farm has received a lot of positive responses from customers who promised to visit anyway. The pumpkin patch is open through Nov. 3.