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Southern Colorado pumpkin harvest going well despite weather, pandemic issues

MONUMENT, Colo. (KRDO) -- A wet spring followed by a hot, dry summer apparently hasn't negatively affected the region's pumpkin crop.

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With fall starting in just a few days, the orange globes are being harvested for delivery to the first group of buyers -- among them, the Colorado Pumpkin patch in Monument which opens Saturday.

Owner J.D. Chapman said that his first shipment of pumpkins arrived as the weather cools off early next week.

"We get our pumpkins from Rocky Ford in Otero County," he said. "Most of them are grown in the Arkansas River valley where they can be irrigated regularly. Pumpkins actually thrive in warm weather. It's the severe storms and hailstorms that we worry about, as well as unexpected frosts. But everything's looking good so far this year."

Courtesy: Pantaleo Farms

However, pumpkins are being affected by issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic: Finding enough workers to care for the crop, and a shortage of drivers to ship the harvest to buyers.

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"It's been a real challenge this year," said Guiseppe Pantaleo, a fifth-generation pumpkin grower in Pueblo County. "I usually have 25 to 30 people helping me out. This year, I did it only because of friends who helped me out and pulled me out of the mud. The fewer people you have, the longer harvesting takes -- and the longer my produce is on the ground, the more I have to worry about weather."

Chapman is having his pumpkins delivered by Matt Parker, an independent shipping driver who has Chapman as one of his few clients so far.

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"I hear that transportation companies can find drivers but not keep them for long," Parker said. "I'm busy enough now but I could get busier. I'm already doing some Denver deliveries. Everyone's busy."

Pantaleo grows pumpkins only for customers at his Great Pumpkin Patch in eastern Pueblo County, so shipping isn't a problem for him.

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Chapman said that the supply chain issues has increased his pumpkin costs by nearly 20%.

"It will add 50 cents to $1.00 to the price of a pumpkin," he said. "But there should be enough for everyone who wants one, and they'll still be affordable."

Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

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