MIDDLETOWN — Mary Howell knows the weather is unpredictable, but she's planning a shorter harvest season because an early hard freeze is forecast.
“It’s staring us in the face,” Howell said of the possibility. “Some years it never happens and some years it does, but it's always looming.”
Howell, her husband and two sons own and operate Howell Farms, 12261 S. Henry County Road 600W, Middletown. The family farm is a supplier of decorative pumpkins and grows more than 500 acres of pumpkins. This year’s pumpkin crop has been good, she said.
Mild temperatures and ideal weather conditions promised high yields early in the growing season. But a lack of rainfall and extreme heat in August impacted crop conditions and yields.
“It was very good until August, then it stopped raining, and that causes the size to be a little bit less than optimum,” Howell said.
Howell Farms was founded in 1972. Crops grown on the farm include tomatoes, pumpkins, corn and soybeans. At one point, Howell said, the family operated a small pick-your-own pumpkin patch, but has since expanded into a national supplier of pumpkins. She said the pumpkins grown on her farm are now shipped across the United States to scattered destinations, including Maine, Oklahoma, Florida and New York.
Howell noted predictions of an early, hard freeze on Oct. 12. That jibes with the Midwestern Regional Climate Center's forecast of the first freeze occurring between Oct. 11 and Oct. 20. According to predictions from the Old Farmer’s Almanac, a decline in solar activity and weather patterns will also bring below-normal temperatures and above-normal snow accumulations this winter.
“We've been working really hard to get as much as we can out of the fields every day,” Howell said. “We're really happy with our progress so far.”