Pumpkins at local produce store affected by drought

10/13/2012

By ANGIE HAFLICH

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

Although Huber's Produce of Garden City has plenty of pumpkins on hand, displayed both inside and outside of their store on Schulman Avenue, even that crop has been impacted by the drought.

Kelley Bicket, co-owner of Huber's Produce, 2006 E. Schulman Ave., said that the lack of moisture has had an effect on all of their produce, and that it is the duration of the drought that has had the biggest effect on pumpkins.

"With this being the third year, we planted less just because of the effect of it," she said, adding that the overhead of growing their normal crop was too high to justify this year.

The pumpkins' sizes, while determined somewhat by whether or not they are hybrids, are also affected by moisture, or lack thereof, she said, but pumpkins are also designed to be certain sizes, as this largely determines their use.

"If you plant a hybrid, you're going to get a good uniform size," Bicket said, adding that they are the kinds that have the best shape, so they are typically the most popular on Halloween.

"The sweetest of the pumpkins are the pie pumpkins (smaller ones). People think they want to buy a big one to get more, but there's (actually) more meat in the smaller ones, and even more seeds," Bicket said. "So size doesn't necessarily mean anything."

This time of year, Huber's Produce also displays and sells a large number of gourds.

"The gourds are a tougher plant. They can take more," Bicket said, adding that while gourds need water when they are growing, they will actually rot if there is too much moisture. "When they're ready, you've got to get them off the ground."

She said that some of their other crops also have been affected by the lack of moisture.

"One thing we did not see at all, because of no rain probably and the extreme heat — okra. Last year, we saw tons of okra. And we had major trouble with the little cucumbers. Our people who like to pickle them, that was limited," she said.

The store currently is up for sale.

Bicket said the "For Sale" sign in front of the store was put up three months ago for a number of reasons, besides the effects of the drought.

"Our lives are hectic, busy. Our (her and her sister, Traci Savolt's) boys are two months apart, they're seniors — everything's up in the air — so we cried and thought, 'What's going on? Do we slow down?' So, after we got used to the idea, we thought 'All right, we're going to downsize,'" she said, adding that she tells her customers to just ignore that sign. "I tell people, 'Don't even believe that. I'm leaving it up to God and just taking one day and just enjoying it because it can consume you. Our whole lives. This is all we've done."

She and sisters Traci and Rhonda Blanchette are the daughters of the late Bob and Leona Huber, who started selling produce decades ago. Since the beginning, the family has grown cantaloupes, watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, and summer and fall squash that they sell in the stands. They also sell other types of produce, contributed by other area farmers.

As she looked at a photo of her father checking his crops, Bicket said, "We love it. When I'm in here, I feel like my mom and dad are here. It's like a safe zone."

She said that their father told them prior to his passing, "You guys know what to do."

For now, they are doing what they have always done and have a haunted house set up behind the store.

"We'll have it ready by this weekend, so Monday we'll start," Bicket said.

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