Jul 29, 2014

Let the Pumpkin Challenge Begin!

Easton's Public Schools are squaring off to see who can grow the largest pumpkin.


What started as a pet project for one Easton resident has escalated into an all-out Shoveltown pumpkin Showdown between Easton's public schools.

The Flynn's Farm Great Pumpkin Challenge 2012 Easton's Schools vs Schools kicked off Tuesday afternoon at Flynn's Family Farm.

The event was started by Flynn's Family Farm employee Todd Sandstrum, a member of Easton's Agricultural Commission and Friends of Easton Public Gardens, who originally intended to grow some pumpkins with his children.

But, when the seeds, a gift from his girlfriend for Valentines Day, came back damaged, he ended up with much more than he asked for.

"When they were shipped from the grower in New Hampshire, they got stuck in the machine and half of them got crushed," Sandstrum said.

"We emailed them and said the seeds were damaged and response was to send back the seeds. When they got the envelope it was a padded envelope . I spent three bucks to ship them up there and everything. He was just dumbfounded that I spent money to protect these seeds so he sent us back about 70 seeds."

The result: the capability to grow numerous pumpkins.

Wanting to get more people and children involved, Sandstrum devised a plan: get Easton's Public Schools involved in a contest to see who could grow the largest pumpkin.

"For me, it was just a piece of the pie," Sandstrum said. "We’ve got these seeds. We’re trying to get agriculture back in the classroom. What a good, good kickoff to get this involved."

Sandstrum approached school officials and the various principals. For sponsorship he approached Sean and Jessica Flynn to see if could help.

"It was 90 percent Todd," Sean Flynn said. "I just gave him a place to do it."

Flynn's Family Farm also teamed with Coast of Maine Organics to help with the project, which kicked off Tuesday afternoon at Flynn's Bay Road farm when students and teachers from each school planted their seeds.

Coast of Maine provided lobster compost for the contest, which is made from bacteria derived from lobster shells.

"To grow something really big like a pumpkin, you guys know we're going to use the smallest things," Coast of Main owner Peter Bottomley told the students.

While the kickoff was messy, it was a success.

Within a week and a half, when two sets of leaves appear, pumpkins will be returned to the schools where students will continue to nurse their creation.

A final weigh-off will take place on Sept. 30. In the meantime, Sandstrum provided schools with a "Great Pumpkin Challenge" handbook.

"I think it's great and I'm really so excited to see everyone here," Sandstrum said.

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