In West Bridgewater, farmer Peter Reading picked up one of his pumpkins and turned it around to assess the damage.

"I mean, you see the pumpkin here, it looks perfectly fine. You flip it over on the other side and you see how soft it is,” he said. "It's just breaking down from the inside out — and it's just way, way too much. And it's pumpkin after pumpkin after pumpkin."

Record-setting rains this summer left a lasting impact on farms across Massachusetts by creating prime conditions for pathogens and fungi to rot entire fields of crops, from Reading's pumpkins to cranberries on Cape Cod. The full extent of the crop loss is not yet known, but the state USDA office says they expect to request a federal disaster declaration. All that would really do is give farmers access to a federal loan program.

At C&C Reading Farm almost all of their pumpkins — about 48,000 pounds of them — rotted this way. And at 79 cents a pound, that adds up to more than $37,000 in lost income.

"This is the worst year ever in my lifetime,” Reading said of the rain. “I've never, ever, ever seen it like this. Never. I mean, I've seen rain, but I've never seen rain week after week, after week, after week."

July alone was the single wettest month for Massachusetts since records were first collected in 1895.

Reading’s wife, Lynn, runs the business side of the farm. She said they lost about half their corn harvest and had to cancel their annual sunflower festival in August.

“We were able to salvage some of the sunflowers, but a lot of them rotted from the bottom up,” she said.

Lynn and Peter Reading in the store at their West Bridgewater farm
Craig LeMoult GBH News

All that water builds the perfect environment for a pathogen called phytophthora.

"This phytophthora, it lives in the soil so it produces these very long-lived spores that can survive in the soil, even without a crop host, for like a decade, for a long time," said Genvieve Higgins of the UMass Extension vegetable program.

And when it gets really wet, the pathogen goes wild.

Not every farm in Massachusetts is seeing fruit rot this season. Higgins said that’s because growing conditions vary, and not every field is infested with phytophthora.

“If the pathogen isn’t there, obviously it can’t infect your crops, and you might have a totally fine crop, especially if you have well-drained soils,” she said.

The fruit rot also hit the state’s most valuable crop: cranberries.

“With the excess rain that we had this summer, plus the heat, they were basically just kind of cooking in that environment of moist air, and that’s the perfect condition for fungi to grow and cause the rot that we’re seeing now,” said Brian Wick, executive director of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association.

Last year, the state’s cranberry crop was down because of drought conditions, and farmers had been hoping to make up for that this year with a strong harvest.

The commissioner of the state Department of Agricultural Resources, John Lebeaux, wants to make sure people still support their local farmers because there is still locally-grown produce to be had.

Many farmers have insurance to help when they have a bad year, he said.

“It doesn't make them whole,” Lebeaux said. “But it takes some of the sting away.”

That kind of insurance may get more and more necessary as the climate changes.

It can be hard to say definitively that something like a drought or an especially rainy season is the direct result of climate change. But as the planet heats up, we’re going to see more of these extremes, said Peter Huybers of Harvard, who studies how climate change will alter crop production.

“As you warm the air, every degree Celsius you warm it, it holds 7 percent more water vapor,” Huybers said.

That means air coming from a dry area has the capacity to draw more water out of soils, causing drought. And air coming from over the ocean has more water in it to dump as rain.

For some farmers, the impacts of the changing climate have been clear for years.

“I don’t care what anybody says … we knew before anything was mentioned about climate change [that] it’s been here,” said Lynn Reading of C&C Reading Farm. “You just have to make sure that you put enough money away so that you're able to, not go out of business and make sure you have enough money for the next season."

She said they’ll be OK. But they’re really hoping for better weather and a more productive harvest next season.