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New York farmers facing pumpkin shortage

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Albany/HV: New York farmers facing pumpkin shortage
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Fall is the time of year pumpkin farmers wait for all year, but due to Tropical Storm Irene, many won't get to cash in on their crops this year. Our Matt Hunter reports.

KINGSBURY, N.Y. – Fall is here and that means it's pumpkin time; the time when droves of families head out to local farms and stands in hopes of picking out the perfect future jack-o’-lantern.

However, this year, you may be wise to get an early start. In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, many New York pumpkin growers report partial or total losses to their crops.

"Two methods [caused it],” pumpkin farmer Dennis Kelly said. “One, the whole crop swept away into the river, plants and all. Other farmers have so much silt deposited onto the field it pretty much buries the pumpkin"

Despite flooding in his fields, Kelly's farm in Washington County was mostly spared. Because of the mud left over, he's had to leave his tractor parked and is now relying on a team of horses to haul his pumpkins from his field.

"Instead of 200 to 250 pumpkins a load we're putting 40 pumpkins on a load,” Kelly said. “So it's a little longer and a little harder."

In recent days, Kelly's phone has been ringing off the hook. He says he's received calls from numerous farmers and wholesalers who've lost their crops or supply and are now in desperate need to replenish as Halloween approaches.

"We got a call from a guy this morning who lost 10 acres in one shot,” Kelly said. “That's an awful lot of pumpkins to be down and have to purchase."

Depending on how much a farmer charges, Kelly says a loss like that could approach $250,000.

With so many in the same boat and the supply shrinking, he says it's likely consumers will be saddled with higher prices this year.

"As we go on you'll find that prices will keep creeping up and up and up as the demand gets higher,” Kelly said. “It's sad that, that happens. We try to keep one constant price and hopefully help somebody out."

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