Maitland pumpkin farmers are thousands of dollars out of pocket after a lack of pollination has destroyed the annual crop.
It's a huge blow for shoppers who flock to the Slow Food Earth Market Maitland in The Levee to stock up on local pumpkin and other farm produce for their Christmas feast.
Farming duo Matthew and Liam Dennis can't quite believe their plight.
They were among the farmers who spent months calling for the state government to provide European honey bee hives on farms by October 1 to pollinate the crops but the pleas fell on deaf ears.
He said the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) arrived at their East Maitland farm with four hives seven weeks after their deadline, and it was too late.
"The pumpkins are a disaster, I wish I had never planted them," Matthew said.
"The bees only have a certain window to get the pollen in the male flower to the female flower. The female flower forms a tiny pumpkin on the end but they've all been dying because they haven't been pollinated."
Other farmers are also struggling to understand why it has taken so long for the DPI to put hives back on their farms.
But a DPI spokeswoman said "the decision and organisation to re-supply farms with pollinating bees, including sourcing them, is a matter between commercial bee operators and the farmers".
The varroa mite national management group decided the eradication strategy was no longer feasible in September.
It came two weeks after NSW Agriculture Minister Tara Moriarty said hives could be brought back into the Maitland area.
The group based that decision on technical grounds and announced a transition to the management of the varroa mite.
That meant hives could be reintroduced but they had to be monitored regularly for the mite.
Swap pumpkins for tomatoes
Oakhampton farmer Austin Breiner said the DPI told him to swap his pumpkin crop for tomatoes when he expressed the need for honey bee pollination on his farm.
He said they didn't understand the realities of small-scale farming.
"You'll get twice as many tonnes of tomatoes than you would pumpkins, and it's a very intensive crop," he said.
"We've got no labour here to pick them or tie them up and if you did it mechanically you'd probably be up for half-a-million dollars in machinery.
"Then Coles and Woolworths and Aldi all have their contract growers anyway, so where are we going to sell them?
"They just don't understand farming at the coalface."
The varroa mite is a parasite that kills European honey bees but it does not affect native bees.
The Dennis' already had native bees on the farm but they haven't helped their pollination woes.
"I don't think the native bees are big enough to go into the flower, they are so small and the flower is so big that I think they can miss it," Matthew said.
"The honey bees are disorientated, I think there are too many things flowering to entice them to go over to the pumpkins. They've got too much choice."
"It's a mega fail"
The pumpkin crop is the Dennis' main source of income. They knew it would be a gamble, given the mite eradication strategy was in force when they ordered the seedlings months ago.
They managed a small harvest last year - thanks to the feral honey bees that hadn't been killed.
Now they have a few pollinated pumpkins and are $8000 out of pocket for the cost of the pumpkin seedlings.
"It's a mega fail, and an $8000 loss," Matthew said.
"We can normally have pumpkin ready a week before Christmas and that is when we make a bit of money."