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Weather takes toll on Willamette Valley area pumpkins

PORTLAND — Cold, wet weather is turning 2010 into a poor year for farmers and gardeners in the Willamette Valley.

Gardeners are reporting their pumpkins are tiny and the weather may rot some crops before farmers can harvest them.

Commercial vegetable expert Dan McGrath of Oregon State University's Linn County extension office said it's been more than two decades since he's seen a year this bad for farmers. Planting was late and the harvest will be delayed.

"It's been a remarkably challenging year because we got a very late start planting — almost a month — because of the wet weather," said McGrath. "Now we're trying to finish them up and we're getting cold weather on the other end. So it's a struggle."

The harvest has been delayed by about a month, McGrath said. Pumpkins will be smaller and the yield diminished, he said.

Wine grapes got a slow start, and it's questionable whether they will ripen before the rain starts and mold takes over the crop. Hazelnuts also will be late this year, he said.

Harvesting crops such as cauliflower is difficult when fields are soaked.

"It's very difficult to get tractors and harvest equipment in cauliflower fields if the ground is wet," McGrath said. "It's just a hassle."

Bob Egger, co-owner of The Pumpkin Patch on Sauvie Island, said last year was one of his best, but 2010 will be the worst for revenue since he took over the family business in 1992.