Find Out Why This Guy Is Going to Paddle an 800-Pound Pumpkin for 8 Miles
By Lynne Palazzi
A few weeks from now, on Sept. 3, a massive hollowed-out pumpkin will be lowered via crane into the Taunton River near Dighton, Massachusetts. Local farmer Todd Sandstrum, 43, will climb inside it, then attempt to skipper the squash 8 miles south until he reaches two things: the town of Fall River and a Guinness World Record.
Todd Sandstrum in the Taunton River during last year's pumpkin paddle attempt, during which he traveled 3.5 miles.Todd Sandstrum
Insert your own "out of his gourd" joke here.
In fact, the kooky stunt is part of a deeper mission: Sandstrum is passionate about "getting kids out in the dirt and growing something and to understand where food comes from," he said. The father of two works as a consultant for Crave Food Services, an online marketplace that connects restaurant chefs with local farmers. Five years ago, Sandstrum and his wife, Genevieve, co-founded the South Shore Great Pumpkin Challenge, which distributes pumpkin seeds (the Atlantic Giant variety) to schools throughout Massachusetts. The school that grows the heaviest pumpkin wins a $1,000 grant that must be spent to further agricultural education.
Problem is, a noble mission doesn't always make for a juicy story. Sandstrum was having trouble capturing media attention and decided he needed to stage a spectacle. (Hey, it worked on us!) And while turning giant pumpkins into seaworthy vessels is nothing new, no one had ever attempted a world-record pumpkin sail. The category—"Longest Journey in a Pumpkin Boat (paddling)"—didn't even exist, so Sandstrum lobbied (successfully) the Guinness World Record folks to create it.
So, last September, Sandstrum made his first world-record attempt, but it proved to be riddled with problems. Shallow tide, a foot injury that Sandstrum sustained less than a week before the event and video equipment that crapped out before he did all conspired against him. In the end, he'd traveled 3.5 miles, half the distance he'd aimed for.
Sandstrum says scooping out all the pumpkins' guts only takes about 20 minutes and none of it is wasted.Todd Sandstrum
Hollowing out one of the orange beasts requires a limbing saw, a giant spoon and only about 20 minutes of scooping, Sandstrum said and no part of the pumpkin is wasted: The seeds are saved for next season, chickens feast on the slimy innards (which last year weighed in at about 30 pounds) and the shell eventually hits the compost bin. The second-largest gourd will be reserved for Sandstrum's pal Josh Peach, who'll paddle alongside him "for moral support … and comic relief," he said, "If he falls out, he falls out. I have to actually stay in it and go the distance." For more info on Sandstrum's world-record attempt, head to his website.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.