Oklahoma Pumpkin Patch Grow Businesses Struggle to Grow Pumpkins Amid Drought
KOKH - October 17, 2022 6:43 am
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — Green Country has been plagued by extreme drought this year – and so have its pumpkin patches.
Most aren’t growing their own pumpkins this year. But this isn’t a new phenomenon.
Melissa Torkleson owns pumpkin patches in Glenpool and Sand Springs. Her pumpkins, though, come from Texas.
“It just seems like, year after year, the growers in Oklahoma that produce any kind of pumpkins are getting fewer and fewer,” she said.
“Unfortunately,” she added, “I think for most pumpkin patches in the state of Oklahoma, they’re going to be pulling their pumpkins in from out-of-state.”
The same goes for Carmichael’s Pumpkin Patch in Bixby. It’s been that way for the majority of its 45 years in business.
“We used to try and raise ‘em,” owner Don Carmichael explained, “but after 15 or 20 years, you decide you’re better off to buy better pumpkins from up north where it’s a little cooler.”
It turns out drought isn’t the biggest concern when growing pumpkins in warm weather.
“In tremendous heat, you don’t get the bright colors,” he explained. “Most of our pumpkins are coming out of northern Kansas, up towards the Nebraska line. The cooler nights, they make a more orange pumpkin.”
Drought is still a concern for pumpkin patches, though.
“One thing that we had to do is, for a whole month, we had to water our corn maze on a daily basis,” Torkleson said.
Without growing pumpkins, patches have had to find other ways to grow their business.
“I do always tell people that I would not be in the pumpkin business just selling pumpkins,” Torkleson explained. “We definitely make a larger volume of sales on our activities.”
Carmichael estimated four thousand people visited his pumpkin patch by mid-afternoon Saturday. Many of them had already been there two, or even three, times this week.
Carmichael leans heavily into activities. It turns out kids – like kids.
“We’ve got goats and sheep and camel rides and pony rides and birds,” Carmichael said, leaving out the pigs, guinea pigs, cows, and tortoises. “We’ve added to it over the last few years.”
The activities bring people back, he explained, even after they buy a pumpkin.