Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gene the Pumpkin Man!

Gene the Pumpkin Man is an institution unto himself up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He's been in the pumpkin growing and selling business for 52 years, and his family's been farming since the late 1880s. I've made many trips to Kalamazoo to see family, and whenever I passed the bright orange signs of Gene's, I'd think, wow, I really need to check that out. Finally, this year, the stars aligned and I made the pilgrimage with one of my girl-cousins.

Gene is a man who is fully dedicated to his chosen path in life. My aunt once saw him and his wife out at breakfast in the off-season; he was dressed in orange. His Christmas lights? Orange. His car? I don't want to ruin it, so just scroll down now if you can't wait.

And now, I will tell you a little secret: I am jealous of Gene the Pumpkin Man. He does what he loves, and clearly, he can live on what he makes. I'm starting to strive for that kind of life, and I'll tell you, as I do it, this orange-clad man is one of my sources of inspiration.

By now, you're probably wondering how any of this is at all related to other cultures, so here you go, straight from the informational booklet given to me by the Pumpkin Man himself: "The pumpkin is fruit of the gourd family and is native to Central America. It was grown by the Indians in North America when the first colonists landed."

Enjoy the photos, dear readers. (By the way, they were all taken with my iPhone.)

Pumpkins as far as the eye can see.

Big ones, little ones, different varieties.

Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins.

There are more pumpkins in that barn, I promise you.

Doubtless by now, word-of-mouth is the only advertising this man needs, if in fact he needs any. But I loved this bit of merchandising: behold the Gene the Pumpkin Man pumpkin carving knife.

This sign is visible from Route 43, which passes in front of the farm.

He also raises a variety of wacky squashes.

Some of them look like they have tumors.

Others reminded me of sea creatures.

Gene the Pumpkin Man is happy to pose for photos. On nice days like this, a line full of kids and adults forms.

Naturally, he drives an orange Cadillac.

With personalized plates.


  1. How cool! I never tire of visits to the pumpkin farms. The colors and textures are so rewarding-- I love the squashes and the odd shapes of the gourds, too.

  2. What fun! ...and an inspiration too! The color orange is also the chosen color for the robes of Tibetan Monks. Is there a connection?
    Mango Mama

  3. I think that orange has something to do with a natural dye, but I don't think it's from pumpkins. Saffron is my best guess. Does anyone out there know for sure? If so, speak up!


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