The Maitland Pumpkin & Squash Seed Bank Project

05 May 2023

Slow Food Hunter Valley is calling on citizens to become part of the planting, growing, hand pollinating, harvesting, and seed-saving of Maitland’s iconic pumpkin!

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This humble vegetable has been part of the historical, sporting and cultural fabric of our community for many years, however our beloved pumpkin is facing a serious challenge.

While Maitland farmers have a long history of growing pumpkins of many varieties, the Varroa mite eradication plan implemented by the NSW Department of Primary Industries   has resulted in a devastating lack of pollination provided by the European honey bee for the region’s pumpkin and squash crops in 2023.

Slow Food Hunter Valley Leader, Marcus Bridges said, “In response to this challenge, Slow Food Hunter Valley is launching the Maitland Pumpkin & Squash Seed Bank Project, working hand-in-hand with the community to secure the biodiversity of pumpkin crops for the future. Following on from the work of Slow Food Hunter Valley, together with the support of Maitland City Council and the local community, to save the livelihood of one key farming family in the Hunter region – the Dennis family of Nebo Farm – after the 2016 floods destroyed their crop, the saving of the humble pumpkin is now part of Maitland folklore and the catalyst for the resurgence of farming in the district”.

Amorelle Dempster, Chair of the Earth Market Maitland, said “In setting up the Earth Market six years ago, Slow Food Hunter Valley has ensured that the community can access locally grown food, with initiatives to address food security, fresh, seasonal produce, young farmers’ futures, biodiversity, food education, food tourism and a prosperous community of small-scale farmers and producers. As part of this latest initiative, we’re seeking backyards, front yards, school yards, community gardens, and any other suitable space (4m2) to plant, grow and save as many local pumpkin varieties as possible.  She said, that “This is a project that inspires grassroots change, engages the community and protects Maitland’s food heritage from extinction.”

Marcus Bridges, Slow Food Hunter Valley Leader, said, “We’ll be launching the Maitland Pumpkin & Squash Seed Bank Project at Taste May 2023 on May 19th-21st, where those interested can register to be part of this rewarding, long-term project. We are excited to be working with our partners, Mark Brown & Kate Beveridge from Purple Pear Farm on this project.” For those who have signed up to be involved there will be an opportunity to join in the planting of the seeds at Purple Pear Farm in August, before collecting seedlings ready for their own plot at the Earth Market in September”. Further dates will be announced when growers can come together to share tips and updates as well as ask questions, with an educational workshop at Purple Pear Farm offering a fun opportunity to learn about the process of hand pollination. Pumpkins will be harvested and proudly displayed at the Maitland Show in February 2024, and then at Maitland Taste 2024 the feasting will begin”!

Slow Food Hunter Valley would love to hear from anyone wishing to get involved, please get in touch by emailing [email protected].

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