Emerging from pandemic, California pumpkin farmers now dealing with drought
HALF MOON BAY, Calif. - October is just around the corner and pumpkin farms in Half Moon Bay are preparing for what will hopefully be a fruitful season.
Many are family operated for decades.
Emerging from the pandemic, farmers are now dealing with a historic drought.
At Farmer John's Pumpkin Farm along Highway 1, the owners took a KTVU crew behind the scene for a look at this year's harvest amidst a drought.
"Usually water them 2-3 times a week," co-owner Danny Bretao said the farm has grown only half of what a usual season produces, "The hardest part of this year was figuring out how much crop to plant with our water situation. Just managing what we had."
The farm planted five acres of the orange fruit instead of 10, which produces up to 15 varieties instead of 20 to 25.
Some are edible; some decorative.
"Pumpkins are like people. They come in all colors and sizes, shapes. But on the inside, we're all the same," said John Muller also known as "Farmer John."
He ran the farm for two decades until turning it over to the new owners in February.
He predicts a good season. These fields a place of refuge during the pandemic, "They just need to come out and feel nature and smell nature and touch nature."
Nearby, Lemos Farm offers a petting zoo with 80 goats and other entertainment.
The family-owned operation is open year round.
Frank Lemos, whose family owns the farm, said Covid concerns have had an impact, "Business has been a bit slower, but we're doing all right."
On this weekday afternoon, there were families visiting.
"The community is really pulling together. People are really coming out because they're looking for something fun, a little taste of normal again," said Lemos.
Back at Farmer John's Pumpkin Farm, Bretao said despite the drought the quality and price of the pumpkins will be the same.
They range from $2 to $30 depending on the size.
"The goal would be to just have people come here and enjoy it as much as we do," said Bretao.
Farmer John's is open to the public every day from 9am to 6pm through Halloween.
It's free to visit and no reservations required.