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Southern Illinois pumpkins: Not just orange anymore

  • Mike Respondek, of Friendly Farms Pumpkins, stands next to one of his displays in Parker Plaza.

    Mike Respondek, of Friendly Farms Pumpkins, stands next to one of his displays in Parker Plaza.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO


  • TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

 
By Travis DeNeal tdeneal@dailyregister.com
updated: 9/13/2019 10:22 AM

SALINE COUNTY -- One local pumpkin vendor said he's already enjoying selling his homegrown pumpkins to area residents.

Mike Respondek, who lives in Pope County and originally is from Eldorado, is selling his wide variety of pumpkins mostly on the weekends at Parker Plaza in Harrisburg.

He said he started raising pumpkins in 2018 as a way to creatively fill some extra time.

"I went from working about 80 hours a week to about 45, and I told my wife I needed something else to do, so I decided to start raising pumpkins," he said. "I wanted to do something that would include my wife and kids, and I have a 3-year-old who absolutely loves it."

He said he's quickly learned to become attuned to the needs of consumers.

"This year, I grew a lot of white varieties and flat varieties, because a lot of women told me they liked those kinds for decorating," he said.

While his pumpkin business has grown, quite literally, this year, Respondek said he's considering expanding the pumpkin patch again next year.

"I wouldn't mind raising some more next year, and my ultimate goal is to create a fall attraction for Pope County," he said.