Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Pumpkins as Therapy: Not Only Does This Seasonal Favorite Provide a Nice Sideline Business, It Helps Rehabilitate Problem Teens

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Pumpkins as Therapy: Not Only Does This Seasonal Favorite Provide a Nice Sideline Business, It Helps Rehabilitate Problem Teens

Article excerpt

When Mike Firestine's hopes are squashed, that's a good thing.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The veteran agricultural lender has a sideline in pumpkins. It's not your backyard hobby. Firestine, senior vice-president and senior agriculture lending officer at Fulton Bank, Lebanon, Pa., grows thousands of pumpkins annually. He's done so, commercially, for more than 30 years.

In the beginning, Firestine only sought a way to make his farmland pay better.

"Little niche markets tend to be more profitable than corn and soybeans," he explains. He and his family chose the seasonal favorites, initially wholesaling these members of the squash family (genus Cucurbita) to nurseries, greenhouses, and stores.

But then folks began spotting his fields adjoining U.S. 422, the Benjamin Franklin Highway, in Womelsdorf, Pa., and asked if he'd let them pick their own.

Why not? he thought. Now he and friends, family, and employees pick the best pumpkins for Firestine's long-time buyers. Then in September and October the school and family crowd snaps up the rest at holiday time. The culls go to some of the banker's cattle, who love the crunchy seeds. The u-pick site goes by the name "Teenie's Pumpkin Patch," named for Firestine's wife, Martene.

Firestine, former chairman of the ABA's Agricultural and Rural Banking Committee, maintains a line of credit himself. Raising pumpkins is a high-cost endeavor. Part of the reason why is that pumpkins face several pests, including the nefarious cucumber beetle. Creating of varieties that will resist these pests means seeds are expensive. …

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