By Elizabeth Davey, CISA intern
Published in CISA’s October 2013 Enewsletter
Ed Malinowski Jr., of Malinowski Farms in North Hatfield, recalls his introduction to farming at an early age: “I was capable of driving a tractor at like five, and they would put blocks on the clutch so that I could reach it with my little short leg.” His future as a pumpkin farmer began just a few years later. At the age of twelve he became enthralled with pumpkins when a neighbor let him come over and pick out what seemed at the time like a 500 pound monster. Ed thought, “Wow, this is pretty cool. The guy grew these!” He was even hesitant to carve the pumpkin, keeping it around for months.
At fourteen, Ed grew his first acre of pumpkins. The harvest only filled a couple of pick-up truck loads, but he was able to find a ready market for the crop through his grandfather’s connection to a local grower, which gave him the encouragement he needed. “I was growing something I liked, and it wasn’t hard to grow,” he remembers. Ed continued to edge his way onto his family’s land to grow pumpkins, increasing the acreage over the years. At the operation’s height, Ed was working with 140 acres of pumpkins and a crew of forty.
Ed has always had a creative side, which is evident in his extravagant pumpkin lawn displays every fall, his entertaining descriptions of the farm in CISA’s Farm Products Guide, and in his stone masonry work off the farm. You never know what you’ll find, driving by the North Hatfield farm this time of year. Past years have brought a submarine created from pumpkins and a whole baseball team with pumpkin heads.
Ed prides himself on growing a crop that excites people, especially kids. And his success is clear – generations of local families have brought their kids to Malinowski Farms to pick out a pumpkin each fall. Over the years Ed has donated his pumpkins to several organizations including the Baystate Medical System, Shriner’s Hospital, the Ashfield Fall Festival, and multiple school groups. “To me, if you can put a small sugar pumpkin in some kid’s hand that doesn’t have an opportunity to otherwise get one,” he says, “that’s all the return you need, really.”
Ed is the fourth generation farming at Malinowski Farms. Ed’s great-great-grandfather started Malinowski Farms in the 1890s after emigrating from Poland to the United States. His family “worked their fingers and knees to the bone” raising onions, the major crop in Western Massachusetts at the time. Major onion production had faded from the Pioneer Valley by the time Ed was born, and the Malinowskis transitioned into growing tobacco. But Ed liked pumpkins.
There are a lot of advantages to growing pumpkins, Ed explains, as opposed to other crops. Not only do pumpkins bring enjoyment to people, but also “there’s less monotony with growing pumpkins,” he says. “Each pumpkin has its own personality.” The careful attention Ed gives to his crop is clear – along with appreciating each pumpkin’s uniqueness, he does all his own crop pollination by hand each year and has always saved his own seed.
Today, Ed is a crew of one, farming on 25 acres. He would like to scale up again, and is hoping to double his acreage. “I still have the same enthusiasm I had when I was twelve and picking one or two pumpkins,” says Ed, “I guess that’s what keeps it going … I seem to have inherited some of my forefather’s fortitude and I intend to stick it out.”