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AU: Queensland farmers getting into the Halloween spirit
Australia's largest producers of Halloween pumpkins says demand for the produce variety continues to grow each year, as popularity for the holiday increases in the Southern Hemisphere.
Farmers Belinda Williams and Michelle O'Regan from Stackelroth Farms have been growing this produce for the past 16-17 years at their property in Bowen, Queensland. In that time it has grown greatly from the 500 seeds planted in the original trial.
"We started growing the Halloween Pumpkin variety as a trial crop - just to see how they'd go," Ms O'Regan said. The seed comes from the United States, so we had to see how they would go in our climate and how they would grow in different conditions, in different seasons to the other side of the world. So it has been a lot of research and development over the years of different varieties, trials and just the whole process on how we grow and harvest."
This year Stackelroth has harvested around 350 tonnes of Halloween Pumpkins from their farm in Bowen, however their growing program which branches out to two other partner farms produced a total of 520 tonnes of the specialty pumpkins, which are being supplied to major retailers and supermarkets across Australia - and for the first time this year to Dubai. The farm also produces Jap and Butternut pumpkins, but Ms O'Regan points out the Halloween varieties are different from the common eating ones.
"Halloween pumpkins are a specific variety, so they are grown for carving," she said. "People over in the States don't see pumpkins the same way, American’s called pumpkins squash and they are more of a dessert not a main vegetable in their diet. But the whole makeup of the flesh of Halloween pumpkins is very different to what Australians are used to eating on our dinner plates. The Halloween pumpkins have a bigger seed cavity inside and obviously the flesh and skin is a little different - not just colour, but consistency for carving as opposed to eating."
She says more people are taking part in the holiday in general, which occurs on October 31, after learning it is not just an "American" pastime.
"A lot of people say Halloween is American and we are just following them," Ms O'Regan said. "We are actually not. It is actually an Irish Pagan – Celtic harvest tradition, and it dates back to 'All Hallow’s Day' or 'All Souls Day'. It's a religious festival that is all about celebrating the people in our lives that have passed away, remembering the dead including Saints (hallows)."
Ms O'Regan says the celebration of Halloween is also to ask the spirits, the good spirits of those who have passed to wish well on upcoming farming season. So it surrounds the harvest and it is quite a significant around the harvest or farming sense. In the mid to late 1800’s the tradition was taken to America by European Immigrants escaping the famine, they took with them their costumes and this is how the ‘Trick or Treat’ tradition started and moving forward the celebration became commercialised in America.
As well as supplying pumpkins to the commercial market, Stackelroth Farms also produces squash, zucchinis and cherry tomatoes which have become more locally focused and supplied around the Bowen and Whitsunday area.
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Belinda Williams & Michelle O'Regan
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