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Pumpkin Season Highlights Half Moon Bay's Challenges In Agriculture Industry

HALF MOON BAY (KPIX 5) -- It's pumpkin season in Half Moon Bay and the fields are ablaze in orange. The kids and families are filling up the pumpkin patches and cars jamming the highway. It's all part of an October tradition.

"Thank goodness for our great customers and family and friends that all help us," said "Farmer John" Muller, who's family has been growing pumpkins, produce and flowers here for 75 years.

But it's mostly pumpkins now after a drop in the U.S. flower market due to increasing price competition from abroad.

Muller says even though it looks like he'll have a great October, it's hard to make it year-round on just one crop.

"Everyone works hard, but we're just trying to keep the farm.  And other issues that we were thinking of to try and keep the farm are not working."

Muller, who also grows giant pumpkins for competition, once looked into growing cannabis in his greenhouses but plans never got off the ground.

Meantime costs such as for housing and labor have been skyrocketing.

"Labor is high because housing is high," he said.

Last month, one of the biggest agriculture companies in Half Moon Bay, Bay City Flower Company, announced it was closing in November after more than 100 years in business. Bay City Flower employs nearly 200 workers.

"I think it's a big loss," said Half Moon Bay City Manager Bob Nisbet. "They were there for a long, long time. So it is challenging, it is shocking and we're just doing what we can at the city to assist with transition."

Most other crops are holding steady in Half Moon Bay and some, like brussel sprouts, are even up slightly.

But with increasing costs, environmental concerns and price competition from foreign producers, multi-generational farm families like Muller's worry about the future.

"The fourth generation is still years away and Farmer John and Farmer Eda are trying to hang on but we're trying to do our best," he said.


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