'Tis the Season for Plentiful Pumpkins Across Ohio

Fall season has arrived in Ohio and along with it a favorite crop for food and fun: pumpkins. From pumpkin pie to Jack-o’-lanterns, Ohioans are beginning their fall family traditions.

Luckily, Ohio will have an abundant selection of pumpkins this season. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio’s pumpkin fields have been plentiful thanks to just enough rain and sun in August and September. 

“This may be one of our best years we’ve ever had,” Jim Jasinski, a pumpkin expert and agricultural official with Ohio State University’s extension service, said. “We really didn’t have the high temperatures that we had last year. It was perfect conditions.”

Ohio is the third largest pumpkin producer behind Illinois and California. In 2013, Ohio’s pumpkin crop was low, yielding only eight tons per acre, compared to a usual 10 to 20 tons. The smaller pumpkin harvest also led to higher prices last season.  But, this season yields are up 10 to 15 percent.

According to the Toledo Blade, most of the state’s crop is used for Jack-o’-lanterns or other decorative purposes and that market is worth about $15.4 million in Ohio.

Jasinski shared with The Columbus Dispatch a few recommendations for finding the right pumpkin this season.
  • Select a pumpkin with a few inches of good, green stem.
  • Find a pumpkin with few nicks and gashes. Those marks will harbor bacteria and cause the pumpkin to melt down on your front porch.
  • Look for a traditional-looking pumpkin, one that is deep orange with a smooth rind and few projecting ribs.
This season in Ohio, the perfect carving pumpkin should be easy to find!

What are some of your fall family traditions? How about your favorite Jack-o’-lantern design? Share with us in the comments below.

Photos courtesy of the Toledo Blade, DIYNetwork and Sandusky Register.

Ohio State Extension Grain C.A.R.T. Assists with Grain Bin Safety

As we enter harvest season, grain bins throughout the state are beginning to fill up. Now, is the ideal time to revisit grain-bin safety and highlight an innovative training and education program from the Ohio State Extension.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, grain bin entrapment is when a worker enters a bin and is either suffocated by grain or the bin develops hazardous atmospheres.

Entrapment can happen under several scenarios, which includes standing on moving grain causing it to act like quick sand, grain collapsing and engulfing a worker or trying to move grain while in the bin.

In 2010, grain bin entrapments hit an all-time high with 51 workers being engulfed and 26 dying. Younger males are the largest group of victims.

According to an NPR investigation, about 180 people have died since 1984 from grain-related entrapments on federally regulated sites.  However, most deaths occur on small family farms that are not regulated by the government.

Ohio State students from the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering decided to address this hazard by designing a trailer, The Grain C.A.R.T., to assist with grain bin entrapment training.

The Grain C.A.R.T. (Comprehensive Agricultural Rescue Trailer) is a 40-foot flatbed trailer equipped with a fully functional grain bin, grain leg and gravity flow grain wagon.

The C.A.R.T. is part of a training program designed to assist the Ohio Fire Academy with real world scenarios for grain bin entrapments and help OSU Extension with education and outreach.

“To have a mobile training unit is much better than what we’ve had in the past,” said Dee Jepsen, OSU Extension state agricultural and safety health specialist, in a Marietta Times article. “We can just pull it in, conduct training for a weekend or even a day, then move it out and be done. It’s quite a project and we are so excited about it.”

The training program has set up at county fairs across the state where people can witness live demonstrations of people being rescued from grain bins. Communities interested in using the Grain C.A.R.T. for training purposes can work directly with the Ohio Fire Academy to receive access.

To learn more about the Grain C.A.R.T. training program, click here.

What do you think of this new training program? How will programs like this enhance farming safety? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Photos courtesy of OSU Extension and the Marietta Times.

Record Forecast for 2014 Corn and Soybean Harvest

Despite concerns about crop yields earlier this summer for Ohio corn and soybean farmers, the USDA’s August Crop Production Report forecast for 2014 predicted nothing but good things for the industry. In fact, production numbers for corn crops are expected to be the largest ever, while soybean crops are expected to be the third largest ever. 

According to the USDA, an estimated 14.03 billion bushels of corn are predicted during harvest this year, up from 3.925 in 2013. Soybean crops are expected to produce 3.816 billion bushels during harvest, up from 3.3 billion last year. Due to such a large influx in production, U.S. soybean stockpiles are expected to more than triple in the 2014-15 year, with soybean prices expected to lower by nearly 3 percent.

Six other states are expected to experience high crop yields for corn and soybeans this year due to higher-than-normal levels of rain seen throughout the Farm Belt. These high-producers of corn and soybeans have experienced almost perfect conditions this year, many citing the best soil moisture in a decade. Other farmers are attributing the predicted higher crop yields to technology, such as genetically modified seeds, large equipment and GPS programs that have helped them to determine optimum planting conditions.

Ohio farmers are not as happy about the report as some may expect, with profits expected to reach an all-time low since the recession. At the lowest they have been in four years, corn prices are down by 13 percent this year, with soybeans also lower than usual, meaning that farmers are not bringing in profits. Pair this with the decrease in livestock herds, resulting in a decreased demand in feed, and you will understand why farmers are so worried. The demand is not where it should be for the volume of corn and soybeans that is being produced, with the possibility that farmers may not even break even for the first time since 2006.

With harvest season approaching quickly, I am interested to see how actual yield numbers will match up with those predicted by the USDA. It will also be interesting to see how these numbers impact the U.S. economy for both farmers and consumers. Do you think numbers will be as high as expected?