Area pumpkin patches, farms struggle with drought as Halloween approaches

CLAREMORE, Okla. - Those heading to the local pumpkin patch to pick out their pumpkins, drink a cup of apple cider and perhaps enjoy a hay ride or two, are likely hoping for bright blue skies and cool fall temperatures.

Many pumpkin patch owners who are farmers though are hoping for rain.

Diane Dickinson with the Shepherd's Cross Pumpkin Festival is one of them. She said she often hears those arriving to the Claremore patch say they prayed it wouldn't rain the day of their visit.

"We need it. Rain at night, but we need rain in abundance," she told 2NEWS. She said while people may know Shepherd's Cross for it's pumpkin patch, the Shepherd's Cross is a year-round operating 80-acre farm -- growing hay, pecans and sheep.

Though the host of a pumpkin festival, the farm is not a major producer of pumpkins, the source of the pumpkins at the patch and nor has it been for some time, thanks to the drought.

"The reality is we have had to ship pumpkins in for three years," said Dickinson, saying this year the farm received 30,000-pounds of pumpkins from out of state. "But this year's harvest was even smaller and this has been going on for many years."

"In 10 years I've never seen it so dry."

The farm that was their source of the popular fall vegetable has been struggling as well. Dickenson said the farmer had expressed doubts that he would have a crop, but promised if he did he would ship it to her.

He did have a crop – something both he and Dickinson called a miracle.

For Dickinson and Shepherd's Cross, the drought means much more than little to no pumpkin crop, it means hard times ahead for growing hay and feeding the farm's 150 sheep.

"It's been hard on them."

Fortunately though, they have enough to eat until spring, she said.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture website , the current drought which covers 2,000 counties across the U.S. is "the most severe and extensive drought in at least 25 years."

The fact that nearly 80 percent of agricultural land is experiencing drought "makes the 2012 drought more extensive than any drought since the 1950s."

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