Plenty of pumpkins await Hawai'i revelers
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Curtis Lum
Something rotten is happening in pumpkin patches across the country, but that shouldn't affect the supply of the orange orbs here this Halloween season.
Bad weather and a fungus on the Mainland have devastated pumpkin crops in the East and much of the Midwest. Pumpkin production is expected to be down between 65 percent and 75 percent, while prices are projected to be high.
But in Hawai'i, where about 70 percent of the pumpkins sold are grown at Aloun Farms in Kapolei, there should be enough to go around, and prices will be about the same as last year.
As recently as four years ago, 100 percent of the pumpkins sold in the Islands were brought in from the Mainland. Thanks to Aloun Farms, that's down to 30 percent.
Aloun Farms anticipated a greater demand for pumpkins this year and planted 110 acres, compared with 90 acres last year.
Aloun Farms' Alec Sou said his crop was planted after the March and April storms that damaged many crops; still, crop yield per acre is down this year.
"For some reason the pollination isn't giving as much fruit," Sou said. "Growing conditions are OK, it's just fruit count is down."
Even with the added acreage, Sou said he expects a slight drop in production from last year's 1.3 million pounds (or 157,000 pumpkins) to 1.2 million pounds this year.
That should be enough to satisfy the needs of Hawai'i's Halloween revelers, Sou said. About 80 percent of Aloun pumpkins are sold at local stores, while the rest are available at its Kapolei farm.
The advertised price of pumpkins in local markets this week ranges from 49 cents to 59 cents per pound.
Although the supply is plentiful, Sou advised residents to shop early to ensure that they aren't left with plastic jack-o-lanterns this year. Aloun Farms pumpkins can be identified by a small sticker on each one.
"It's kind of a tricky item. You get down to the last couple of weeks and a lot of people procrastinate and there's always a rush," Sou said. "It's always safe to say, 'Get it while it's available.' Most retailers will not want to have any inventory on the last weekend, so they'll tend to order short of what the demand is."
Floyd Mikasa, produce director for Times Super Market, said Aloun has been "supplying us with whatever we need." He would not disclose how many pumpkins Times has ordered, but said the supply is "plentiful."
Aloun Farms is the only pumpkin producer in the state and has turned pumpkin farming into a family affair.
For the past four years, Aloun Farms has invited school children to take educational tours of the farm, as well as hayrides through the fields. Reservations are required and all tours for this year are booked, said Terry Phillips of Aloun Farms.
Phillips estimates that 20,000 school children will take part in one of the three daily excursions offered this month.
The farm also will be open to the public the final two weekends leading up to Halloween. The annual pumpkin festival features rides, games and food, but the highlight is when visitors are allowed to pick their own pumpkins.
"We tell them there's only one rule, and that is that you can have any pumpkin you want, but you have to carry it out of the patch," Phillips said. "It never fails that the smallest child wants the biggest pumpkin and they try and it's a lot of fun watching them try."
Reach Curtis Lum at email@example.com.