The drought didn't hurt the size of this year's pumpkin crop, which benefited from spring rain. But the drop in precipitation has had other effects.
"Although we didn't have rainfall when we got into late summer/mid-summer, pumpkins were well on their way. A lot of our farmers have the ability to irrigate as well. We are one of the lucky ones as far our pumpkin crop."
Smaller, but plenty to pick from
Hugo Animal Farm's owners count themselves among the lucky ones. The farm used to be open only to school tour groups, said co-owner Sharon Pogreba.
"In the last four years we've had such an abundance of pumpkins that we've had people come" to pick their own from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, she said.
Sharon and her husband, Tom Pogreba, charge 25 cents per pound and set a maximum price of $7 per pumpkin, no matter how large. "We have a lot of big ones this year," Sharon Pogreba said.
Tom Pogreba plants different varieties of pumpkins on about 10 acres. Howden pumpkins can range from 25 to 35 pounds, and Tom Fox pumpkins from 30 to 35 pounds, he said.
Hugo Animal Farm has two mazes, one of hay bales and the other of sorghum-Sudangrass, which is about 14 feet tall and difficult to see through.
As the name implies, it also has a farm-animal petting zoo. Hungry animals come in handy if there are pumpkins left over after Halloween, said Sharon Pogreba.
"Whatever we don't sell, the animals get," she said. "They're not wasted."
A late frost hurt Afton Apple Orchards' apple crop, but the pumpkins thrived, said Cindy Femling, one of the owners.
"I've seen some humongous ones come in," Femling said. "It's a great crop, a really good mix of sizes."
Afton customers may pick white or red pumpkins in addition to the traditional orange, which have deeper ridges than the other varieties.
Afton also has a 15-acre corn maze, a giant spider web for climbing and Halloween decorations featuring smiling ghosts and goblins. The farm is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with hayrides from 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends.
Some of the pumpkins at Pine Tree Orchard are a little smaller than usual due to the drought, Jacobson said. Still, it's one of the farm's biggest crops ever.
"We have a local high school cross-country team who pick and bring in the pumpkins from the outer fields. This year they worked all day and only got one field done," Jacobson said. "There's a ton of pumpkins out there."
Pine Tree has its share of basketball-size and larger pumpkins, he said. Customers pick from the fields closer to the farm store.
Those who want to buy from a farmer without traversing a field may visit Ziertman's Pumpkin Farm in Lake Elmo. Steve and Joan Ziertman raise bees and sell honey, pumpkins, squash, straw and hay bales. The 40-year-old farm is open only on weekends and draws lots of repeat customers.
Steve Ziertman said they have plenty of pumpkins, but some are smaller than normal due to the lack of rainfall. The drought also had another effect, he said. "The mini-pumpkins get chewed on by mice because they're looking for moisture," he said. "Some of the crop got ruined because of critters."
Nancy Crotti is a Twin Cities freelance writer.