Sunflowers lay dying after a pathogen ruined this season's crops at Warren Creek Farms in Arcata. | Photo by Sean Bendon

Farmers hit a rough patch

Fusarium Fungus wipes out majority of Warren Creek Farms sunflower and pumpkin patch

Fusarium. It sounds like it could be a poison used on spies in the 1960s. In reality, it’s the fungus that destroyed Warren Creek Farm’s pumpkin and sunflower crops this year.

“Fusarium is a pathogen,” said Warren Creek Farms owner Abram Stark. “It’s bad for the plants.”

Stark said Fusarium is always in the fields and common with the squash plants. But it came stronger this year, wiping out over half of the farm’s pumpkin and sunflower plants.

“I’m not sure why it’s worse this year,” Stark said. “It could be because of the sunflowers, but then again these fields have had sunflowers and pumpkins on them for many years in a row.”


An Fusarium infected pumpkin lays smashed and rotting in the Warren Creek Farms patch. | Photo by Sean Bendon

Warren Creek Farms has been going strong for more than 20 years with the leadership of local farmer and mentor Paul Guintoli. Guintoli is a former president of the North Coast Growers’ Association.

Guintoli has had a huge influence on many in the community, including another local farm Organic Matters Farm. Heather Plaza is the co-owner of Organic Matters Farm.

“You never know every year what is gonna go on,” Plaza said. “You’re just dealing with nature and the environment.”

Both farms are within a mile of the ocean but use different techniques to protect their crops from the moisture it brings. Organic Matters Farm amends their soil with ash to build up nutrition in the soil and uses a dry farming method instead of watering to grow the crops.

According to a University of California report shared by Humboldt State University Professor Susan Marshall, Fusarium is a pathogen that quite commonly invades pumpkins and squash that belong to the Cucurbitae family.

“You try to prepare the best you can,” Plaza said. “But whatever happens, happens.”

Regardless of the circumstances, the group at Warren Creek Farms did not seem too worried about getting back into the swing of things.

“Next year we’re gonna do it just like we’ve done it before,” Stark said. “This year was just rough.”


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