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.

Broome Advertiser - - Front Page - Jenne Bram­mer

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.

Pic­ture: Jakeb Wad­dell

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