CARVING A NICHE
Broome pumpkin farmer Russell “Rusty” Dredge has sown the seeds of prosperity, with his latest crop of ball-shaped jack-o’-lanterns snapped up by Perth supermarkets.
Australians are increasingly embracing the Halloween celebration, which is proving a business treat for Broome horticulturalist Rusty Dredge.
Mr Dredge has carved himself a niche as WA’s only grower of the large ballshaped Jack-o’-lantern pumpkins, which have been available in Perth supermarkets since early this month.
His property, Ginmore Farms, this year produced 100 tonnes or 15,000 of the pumpkins — more than 10 times his first crop of 2009.
“The Halloween celebration has become more popular in Australia, and with that, demand for carving pumpkins has taken off,” Mr Dredge said.
“Our operation has grown to meet that demand and the Halloween pumpkins now represent about a quarter of the farm’s income.”
Coles is the main retailer, selling the large pumpkins online for $14.50.
Woolworths and IGA have also stacked their shelves.
Ginmore Farms also supplies South Australia and some pumpkins have been airfreighted to Singapore.
Mr Dredge said he planted about 5ha of the Jack-o’lantern pumpkins in June, using seed imported from America. Harvest started midSeptember in preparation for the celebration on October 31.
Mr Dredge said there had been a lot of trial and error along the way, but he was now confident growing this variety, which attracts a fair price and sits alongside other crops, including watermelon, rockmelon, asparagus and other pumpkin varieties.
Mr Dredge, meanwhile, hopes another of his pumpkin varieties will take off, and is about to send his first refrigerated sea container of kabocha pumpkins to Japan.
But he said red tape had stopped him embarking on a bigger asparagus venture.
Mr Dredge joined forces with the WA Fresh Produce Group to form Kimberley Asparagus, which was chosen by the former State government to develop Skuthorpe horticultural area, east of Broome. But not one seedling has been planted because the Department of Water and Environment Regulation has still not issued land-clearing permits.