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California grower shapes produce into unique Halloween decor
Pumpkins with personality
If you’ve seen a video circling around on social media about fruit in Asia that’s grown into special shapes like tiny Buddhas, one sole grower in the United States is shaping the future of some of his own produce by creating unique pumpkins that feature the likes of Frankenstein and a skull, perfect for Halloween.
Japan was first
About six years ago Tony Dighera of Cinagro Farms saw Japanese growers were producing square watermelons, which were unique, but not edible, and still selling for a very high price. “I figured I could do the same thing and make them edible. It took three years and it worked,” he says. His next foray was into pumpkins in order to have an additional unique commodity to offer rather than just in the summer. “It’s also an expensive endeavor and labor intensive. You have to charge a fair amount of money for it and a watermelon isn’t too special. People might buy it because of (cool factor) but then it’s over,” says Dighera. “If you have something for an occasion that’s something people will spend money for.” The Pumpkinstein was born. Originally he had molds made in China but found he could achieve the same result at a lower cost using a local company, “which was huge because I’d much rater buy US.”
Smaller crop than hoped for
This year’s pumpkin crop unfortunately didn’t yield as much as Dighera had hoped. The goal was for 350,000 but he says yields were about half of that. Being an organic farm, they experienced some new issues this year: birds digging the seeds out of the ground. “This is the first year we’ve had an issue – never before,” he says.
Labor is constantly a worry for him, especially since the molds have to be put on at just the right time as to not do any damage. He explains that the pumpkins can’t be too small when the mold is put on but rather should be just snug where it won’t get scarred or move around as it grows. “If it’s too small and too loose when it grows it could twist and turn and break the stem off. That’s one of the big issues – having all that labor to get all the molds on right at the right time. It’s a big project.” Once the molds are on it’s a one-week timeframe to then take the molds off and harvest the pumpkins. This is the first year he’s offered the white skull Gruesomesteins. “We’re working on a couple of things now, hopefully for next season,” he says.
Possibility of outsourcing or external partnerships
Next year he may be looking into sourcing other growers to produce the Pumpkinsteins and Gruesomesteines. “We’ve got some pretty big commitments from big customers Midwest and out east.” And with shipping costs that can be “insane” he’s also exploring growers in the Midwest to participate as well.
Distribution to select areas of USA & Canada
Dighera leaves the distribution to some third party companies who get the pumpkins distributed throughout the USA to states like Illinois, New York and parts of Canada including British Columbia and Ontario. At about $39US, he says if someone thinks it’s really cool and is amazed by it, they’ll pay for it. Truthfully he also points out that it’s not much of a price difference than what a customer would pay by buying a pumpkin direct from a farm’s pumpkin patch. “When you look at that it really isn’t that much more.”
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