Dave and Nancy Brown (G65) have long been known for the giant pumpkins they grow as owners of Mustard Seed Farms in St. Paul, Ore. But recently they were surprised to find themselves associated with something much bigger. This fall the couple was showcased throughout the Northwest on Fred Meyer billboards, with five locations in the Portland metro area and others as far away as Spokane, Wash.
Pictured behind a pile of their giant pumpkins, they are accompanied by the words "Locally (Over) Grown" and a "Support Northwest Grown" logo. It’s a huge step up from the smaller display boards on which they were featured in produce departments in the chain’s 130-plus stores.
The billboards brought immediate reaction from friends, relatives and farm connections. "It’s gratifying to get so many positive comments," says Dave. "It’s usually about how good the picture is or ‘How does it feel to be famous?’"
Photos were taken on their 80-acre farm a year ago. Fred Meyer says the billboards are part of a campaign that "highlights the relationship Fred Meyer has with our local farmers." The superstore corporation took both stills and videos to be used on its website.
The Browns have been supplying giant 100- to 150-pound pumpkins to the company for 22 years, starting with 77 in 1993. This year they’ll provide Fred Meyer stores with more than 700, which will be distributed as far away as Alaska.
"We bill ourselves as ‘The Giant Pumpkin Capital of the Northwest,’ and no one has disputed us on that," Dave says. This year the Browns raised seven acres of pumpkins, half of which were giants, including one that weighed in at 599 pounds. The rest include 30 to 40 bins of specialty pumpkins and 125 bins of jack-o’-lantern pumpkins.
The Browns started farming nearly 50 years ago, and Mustard Seed Farms has been certified organic since 1991. The business supplies three major Portland co-ops as well as Fred Meyer, Safeway, Albertsons and Whole Foods.