Food News

The Great Pumpkin Shortage of 2021

The annual pumpkin patch at Little Man Ice Cream.
The annual pumpkin patch at Little Man Ice Cream. Little Man Ice Cream
Writer Jenny Shank wanted to stock up on pumpkins and pumpkin products for her family — ’tis the season, after all. But when she searched her local Trader Joe's in Boulder on October 24, nary a can of puréed pumpkin, loaf of pumpkin bread, box of pumpkin ravioli or bag of pumpkin cereal bars was to be found.

"I know that some of these products are popular and probably sell out every year, but it seemed a little early. It's not even Halloween yet," says Shank, who only managed to score a bag of pumpkin bagels. "I asked an employee if they had any canned pumpkin, and she said, 'There's a shortage of pumpkin, and this is all the pumpkin items that we're going to have.'" 

Trader Joe's explains that supply chain issues have effected product availability overall, but does note that, "Our Buyers have managed to secure additional supply of our Organic Canned Pumpkin, and you should be seeing more arriving on our shelves sometime around the 15th." But Trader Joe's isn't the only pumpkin-less place this fall. For Little Man Ice Cream's annual pumpkin patch in LoHi, director of marketing Basha Cohen couldn’t get her usual haul from Stahley Farms in Sterling.

"We had a hailstorm come through the later part of July, and it took all the pumpkins, cantaloupe, sweet corn and watermelon," says Randy Stahley, a school counselor who runs the farm as well as a daycare center with his wife. "Weather is an issue always, especially in northeast [Colorado], and it's difficult to base your sole income on crops."

Stahley lost around five to six thousand pumpkins, and Little Man lost its main supplier. With Stahley's help, Cohen was eventually able to source some from Pope Farms in Wiggins, but she notes that Little Man's stash wasn't nearly as large as in years past, and the pumpkins are almost gone.
click to enlarge Get it while you can: The seasonal pumpkin chip ice cream at Little Man is in short supply this year. - LITTLE MAN ICE CREAM
Get it while you can: The seasonal pumpkin chip ice cream at Little Man is in short supply this year.
Little Man Ice Cream

"We normally have an enormous amount of pumpkin chip ice cream, but this year it's sort of a get-it-while-you-can situation," Cohen adds.

While hail is a major factor in this year's pumpkin shortage in Colorado, another factor is at play, too. "This was an intense insect year, maybe because it was wet and there was a mild winter," says Stahley, who adds that he knows other farmers around the area also lost a lot of pumpkins. "Even when it was dry, there were still disease issues. It's a constant battle."

Colorado isn't the only place experiencing a pumpkin problem. Modern Farmer reports that poor weather and fungus outbreaks across the country have affected the number of pumpkins available, and in some cases have wiped out entire crops. Pandemic-related supply-chain issues all over the world continue to cause shortages, as well.

With winter approaching and the available pumpkins harvested, don't be surprised if it's tough to achieve your fall pumpkin goals. And if you spot cans of pumpkin while grocery shopping, stock up — especially if you're planning to have pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Linnea Covington moved back to Denver after spending thirteen years in New York City and couldn't be happier to be home, exploring the Mile High and eating as much as possible, especially when it involves pizza or ice cream.
Contact: Linnea Covington