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It’s a Banner Year for Pumpkins This Halloween

10-2-12

Forty-five acres of pumpkins now cover the fields on Norz Hill Farm in Hillsborough.

“We have a beautiful crop of pumpkins this year,” said Norz Hill Farm Co-owner Rich Norz.

It’s a stark contrast from last October, after weather conditions and Tropical Storm Irene left New Jersey’s farmers without a pumpkin crop.

“The dry weather that we had had through July into the middle of August really devastated a lot of the crop, first last year, and then we had started getting torrential amounts of rain through the middle of August, before the tropical storm hit us, so it was really a perfect storm combination type of thing of disastrous issues last year with the pumpkin crop,” Norz said.

This year, Mother Nature cooperated.

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“Unfortunately with pumpkins don’t need too much moisture. Pumpkins are a very difficult crop. They like it to be, to certainly have enough moisture, but if you have too much, they’re very susceptible to wet grounds.”

Five hundred thirty New Jersey farms grow pumpkins across 2,500 acres of pumpkin patches throughout the Garden State.

A Rutgers University study found one in five New Jersey farms offer agritourism activities, like hay rides and corn mazes. It’s a $60 million industry and some Garden State farmers say their fall festivities give a big boost to their business.

“It’s added a new dimension to help their bottom line,” said New Jersey Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary Al Murray.

Dearborn Market in Holmdel added a hay bale pyramid near its pumpkin patch.

“From a business perspective it brings people not only to the pumpkin patch but also to our store,” said Dearborn Market President Frank Luccarelli. “Usually in the fall, in the harvest season, now in October, we’ll have an increase of about 30 percent foot traffic in the store on Saturday and Sunday.”

Back on Norz Hill Farm, pumpkin season ends after Halloween and Norz is hopeful business will be as plentiful as the pumpkins.

Lauren Wanko files this report from Hillsborough.