Eileen DiGiacomo has spent most of October taking her four kids to the area’s popular fall attractions.
“I was so hot in the corn maze, I was melting,” said DiGiacomo, 34, of Egg Harbor City, whose children range in age from 5 months to 7 years.
The change in season comes with a change in tourism destinations, away from shore towns toward fall activities at mainland parks and farms.
But while the calendar says fall, the temperature has been anything but. The recent stretch of good weather — weekends have been sunny and dry and the temperatures above what one would expect for the season — has motivated people to get outdoors. But no one would mistake this for sweater, apple cider and pumpkin patch weather.
This October has been one of the warmest on record, with an average temperature of 65 degrees. This past weekend brought more clear skies and highs in the 70s.
But the warmer weather hasn’t deterred families from enjoying the season.
“I think people like the tradition,” said Jeremy Sahl, owner and operator of the Joseph Sahl & Son Farm in Galloway Township, “so they’re not paying attention to the temperatures.”
Sahl offers visitors a corn maze, hayrides and a pick-your-own pumpkin patch on more than 100 acres. And while people may not be chucking such agricultural traditions in the face of fall heat, they’re certainly modifying them.
“We’ve seen an uptick in the beverage sales, though we’re seeing more bottles of water than hot beverages like hot chocolate and cider,” Sahl said.
All this warmth has been great for growers.
“Up until last week, summer crops were still being harvested,” said Rick Van Vranken, agriculture agent for the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Atlantic County. South Jersey’s biggest summer crops include tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, which Van Vranken said saw an extended season due to mild summer temperatures and adequate rainfall.
“The attention is now turning to greens,” he added.
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Atlantic County isn’t known for traditional fall produce such as gourds and apples, which are often transported from western counties, Pennsylvania and New York.
Van Vranken said reports on pumpkin and apple crops out of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, are good, with no sign of short supplies. Autumn crops are available at area farm stands and food retailers, according to the Jersey Fresh website.
Last week’s first signs of frost bode well for a good winter crop season, according to Van Vranken.
“Warm weather will help them grow, but if we get a few cooler nights, it will keep the greens nice and sweet. They taste best after they’ve been nipped by frost,” he said.
The outlook for the rest of autumn seems average, with moving cold fronts from the north creating seasonable temperatures.
Press Meteorologist Joseph Martucci contributed to this report.