TODAY   |  October 29, 2011

Storms, drought brings poor pumpkin crop

Hurricane Irene ruined Halloween for many pumpkin farmers in the Northeast and farmers in Texas have very slim pickings due to this summer’s drought. NBC’s Jay Gray reports.

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LESTER HOLT, co-host: This is obviously pumpkin season, but whether you're using them for pies or jack-o'-lanterns, the cost for this year's crop is skyrocketing. NBC 's Jay Gray has the story.

Unidentified Woman: There's a pretty one.

JAY GRAY reporting: They are a sign of the season. The bright orange a beacon signaling fall and all it brings.

GRAY: But dogged by severe weather conditions from west Texas through upstate New York , this year the pumpkins just aren't that great.

Mr. JASON PYLE: We always hoped we were going to get that next week of rain and we just never have got it.

GRAY: Withered by the drought, brown leaves and bad fruit litter Jason Pyle 's, Floydada , Texas , farm. Normally he'd have at least three trucks with crews of 20 or more working his crop. This year, though, there's just one tractor and only four people because there's not that much to pick. You look out it at this field, it's got to be sickening.

Mr. PYLE: It is. It is. You know, and I just -- I wish I had so many more to keep selling...

GRAY: Yeah.

Mr. PYLE: ...but it's not going to happen, I don't think, this year.

GRAY: He's only loaded about a third of the pumpkins he would in a normal year, and the few that did survive the drought are only about half the size he typically sees.

Mr. PYLE: It's been a long summer.

GRAY: But at least Pyle has something to sell.

Mr. DARCY PRAY: It becomes a watery mess, nothing any good for nothing.

GRAY: Darcy Pray normally turns out 15 to 20,000 pumpkins before Halloween . This year, he won't sell even one.

Mr. PRAY: I wake up in the morning and I don't have a job to go to.

GRAY: The tractors sit idle on his farm in Keeseville , New York , and dozens like it across the Northeast . Rain dumped on the area by Hurricane Irene washed away crops.

Mr. PRAY: There's not much that's going to survive that; and you can see it, it didn't survive it.

GRAY: Water desperately needed on farms across the South sits pooled or in muddy puddles here.

Mr. PRAY: It's a bunch of decayed mush. You certainly can't carve a jack-o'-lantern out of that or paint a picture on it.

GRAY: Which means for farmers from New York through Texas , there'll be no treat this Halloween , just a cruel trick from Mother Nature , with perhaps the scariest part of the season still to come.

Mr. PRAY: Where do you go ? What do you do? Who helps you survive? Who pays the bills?

GRAY: For TODAY, Jay Gray, NBC News, Floydada, Texas .