The pumpkin fields of Evergreen Acres in Prince William
County are all quiet this fall. There are no bumpy hayrides and no happy families with
children searching for just the right pumpkins for their doorsteps.
All six acres of pumpkins planted by Nokesville farmer Jim Gehlsen were ruined after a July 12 storm left the young crop under six feet of water, stunting the growth of thousands of would-be pumpkins. This forced him to close the patch to customers and cancel the free, mile-long hayride to the fields.
On Saturday, a small sign placed on the long roadway leading up to the farm explained the gourds' misfortunes to possible pickers who read it and moved on.
He’d just planted the pumpkins in June and there were just a few little sprouts when the storm—which caused a 50-year flood event—came through, said Gehlsen who owns 96 acres and has been farming for more than 30 years.
“They weren’t off to a great start because we had an unusually wet summer. Pumpkins like it hot and dry,” Gehlsen said on Monday, a day he would likely have been counting the profits of a strong weekend of pumpkin sales.
Gehlsen said he didn’t really lose money in the crop failure, but rather, it’s the money he didn’t make.
Evergreen Acres isn't far from the Cedar Run. It was this stream that caused the flooding.
“Six to eight inches of rain fell in the early morning hours,” he said. “ A lot of roads around here were flooded.”
The lack of crops this year is almost the exact opposite of last year’s growing season when the pumpkins had to be irrigated, Gehlsen said.
“Last year, they did well,” he said.
Not so much this year.
Many pumpkin patches in Northern Virginia don’t actually grow pumpkins, but cart them in from farms and place them in boxes or in fields for customers, he said.
But Evergreen Acres’ pumpkins are grown at the farm and are actually on the vine, he said.
“I’m a real pumpkin patch, so if I don’t have the pumpkins, then no patches,” he said. “I’m not going to buy a box of pumpkins and try to fool people.”
Now, the Nokesville farmer is looking past his losses and looking ahead to next month when the sell of his healthy crop of Christmas trees begins.
The fields open the day after Thanksgiving, Gehlsen said. That’s when customers come in, pick and chop their own trees. Evergreen Acres is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekend during the holiday season and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekdays.
Still looking for a pumpkin? Read Manassas By the Block: Where are the Pumpkins?