I see pumpkins …
Got some ideas …
Years ago, I worked for the beauty product company Aveda. The company was founded by visionary entrepreneur Horst Rechelbacher who happened to be born in Austria. With Horst, I used to attend some of the large natural product trade shows where the government of Austria was an exhibitor. The people at the Austrian booth saw him as a favored son and would give us these huge, complimentary bags of all of their products including bottles of pumpkin seed oil. Learn more about Austria and pumpkin seed oil in the Pumpkin Lore section. I’d never heard of pumpkin seed oil before but found the rich, nutty taste unique and delicious.
From LA but sustainable Ag was interesting …
I grew up only 5 miles east of downtown LA but since moving to the upper Midwest have had a real interest in sustainable agriculture and local economies. It sort of made sense, I had always gardened and studied plant cell biology at University of California at Irvine in the mid-1980s. There was a real interest in plants and environmental issues. After moving to Minnesota in 1995, I had the honor of serving as a board member of the Minneapolis-based Alliance for Sustainability (formerly International Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture).
What could we grow ?
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Desiring a rural life I moved with my partner, novelist Jay Gilbertson, to 80 beautiful acres outside of Prairie Farm in pristine Northwestern Wisconsin. We began to look for niche crops and products that could help diversify the local farm economy. We attended a value added agricultural conference in Eau Claire, WI where one of the speakers was Mark Mueller of Botanic Oil Innovations. He encouraged farmers to consider growing oil seed crops, feeling there was a real untapped potential in Northern Wisconsin.
Hey, let’s make pumpkin seed oil !
Putting all this together, the idea of a locally produced pumpkin seed oil was born. Now, I have a more than full-time day job as head of business development for a fine line of herbal supplements, www.avestawellness.com but felt that at least on a part-time, hobby basis, we could pursue and create a product that might be good for health, be delicious and make a contribution to our community.
We’ve spent 4 years testing several varieties of these special “naked seeded” pumpkins looking to find one that would do well in our northern climate with its brief, but intense, summers. For a number of reasons, including ease of harvesting, we eventually selected a winner and have grown it ever since.
Organic and Sustainable Growing Methods
The Prairie Farm area is already a hotbed of organic farming and progressive agricultural thought so of course, the pumpkins are organically grown, without any type of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Even more than that, we consider many aspects of sustainability, including paying a fair and sustainable wage to the folks involved in growing and hand-harvesting the seeds. Learn more about the choices we make in producing the oil in Seed to Oil section.
Hay River is the name of the picturesque, scenic and still undiscovered river that flows through our community of small family owned farms. We also wanted to give our oil a strong sense of place and included the word, “Wisconsin” right above “Hay River” on the label. “Want some cheese curds with that oil and how ’bout those Packers!”
Special thanks to our wonderful friends & community in Prairie Farm.
We love Wisconsin!