Maitland produce market pumpkins could become smaller

TOO BIG: Oakhampton farmer Austin Breiner with some of his pumpkins at Maitland produce market. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
TOO BIG: Oakhampton farmer Austin Breiner with some of his pumpkins at Maitland produce market. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

The humble pumpkin thrives on Maitland’s fertile soils, but that isn’t always good news for shoppers.

Crops of massive pumpkins, that sometimes weigh several kilograms, are fronting up to Maitland produce market in The Levee and shoppers are wondering how they are going to carry them home. 

Small and medium sized pumpkins always fly off the benches at Oakhampton farmer Austin Breiner’s stall, while the larger ones linger. 

He said shoppers could make more meals out of a bigger pumpkin, but if they couldn’t carry it, they’d leave it and choose a smaller one instead.

Sometimes a large pumpkin is too much for a shopper who only wants to add a small amount of that vegetable to their weekly meals, he said.

Mr Breiner has noticed this growing trend over the past few months and is now thinking about changing the way he grows pumpkins on his farm that backs onto the Hunter River. 

Farmers who grow for the wholesale markets are always vying for the biggest pumpkins they can make, but selling direct to shoppers is a different ballgame. 

The mighty pumpkin stall of 2016, where the city bought 20 tonnes of pumpkins in 12 hours, saw lots of shopping trolleys in The Levee to help shoppers transport them. 

“If I pick them when they are smaller it’ll be better for the people who come here to buy them, but it’s not the way I normally think about doing things,” Mr Breiner said. 

“This is a different situation here, you are selling direct to the customer so I need to be thinking about what’s best for them.

“Coming here is a good outlet for me so I can sell what I grow.”

Mr Breiner is known around town as the pumpkin man because he knows so much about the vegetable and its many varieties.

He grows a range of pumpkins including the popular butternut, Queensland blue, sugar pumpkin and heritage varieties. 

His passion for pumpkin is infectious.

“Austin seems to know everything there is to know about pumpkins,” fellow producer Tom Christie, of Four Acre Farm, said. 

“If he doesn’t know it, it’s not worth knowing.

“It’s a lot of fun to go down and have a chat to the other growers, it’s good to see what everyone’s growing and find out how they are growing it.

“You can learn a lot from that.

“The vibe at the market is really good, it’s a great community feel because everyone there is a genuine producer.”

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