Thousands of orange pumpkins lie in beds of crisp leaves and soft soil at McNab’s Corn Maze and Produce Farm, ripe for carving.
They’ve been ready since the beginning of September, a month early and far from the time people arrive at the pumpkin patch to choose a canvas for ghoulish art.
Pumpkins aren’t the only produce to ripen early this year. Growers say a hot, dry season has created out-of-sequence and early ripened crops from corn to tomatoes, eggplants and berries.
For the first time corn was harvested at McNab’s Produce Farm before they could plant their last late corn crop. “That’s shades of California,” said grower Archie McNab, who pointed out that other Vancouver Island farms had corn in late June. It’s the first time he can recall that happening at a commercial level on Vancouver Island.
At Dudink’s Garden and U-Pick Berry Farm they were taken by surprise by strawberries ripe in the last week of May. Usually they start to pick the berries the last week of June, said Lavonne Garnett, wife of farmer Nick Dudink, who’s seen the season start and finish a month early.
She said this year, during the drought, raspberries cooked and fell to the ground and smoke and ash from forest fires meant there were a couple days pickers couldn’t work. Water was also a concern. The duo considered trucking in water for irrigation.
“We’re concerned about how the climate is going to be and that we’re going to have to adjust you know. Maybe grow different crops or figure other ways,” she said.
Nanoose Edibles Certified Organic Farm co-owner Barbara Ebell saw produce ripen early or not much at all through the hot weather. Now there’s a bumper crop. It’s hard to say now, if you went outside, that there’s been any kind of drought, said Ebell, who has so much product she can’t imagine where they are going to sell it.
As for pumpkins, don’t worry – there will be plenty to carve come Halloween, according to Archie and brother, Murray McNab, who planted more than 20,000 pumpkins. Some are still green.
“They got ripe a little early and unless there’s a great amount of rain, they are going to be just fine,” said Murray McNab.
The pumpkin patch typically opens Oct. 9, but could start a week early this year. For more information, please call 250-245-0666.