Partyka will make push to grow market for popular pumpkin seeds
KENDALL – It started as a bit of an experiment. Jeff Partyka was at a presentation by Cornell University more than a decade ago and a researcher talked about pumpkins that produced hull-less seeds (those without a shell).
Partyka was guardedly intrigued. The owner of a fruit and vegetable farm with a market on Countyline Road said farms need to diversify, and look for many sources of revenue. A drought could hit like this year or prices could crash, imperiling a farm if it relies too much on one crop.
Partyka and his sons, Steve and Scott, planted some of the pumpkins. The seeds, after they were dry roasted, were popular with customers. The seeds are a healthy snack, high in iron and low in cholesterol.
“This is something that we have been playing around with for a while,” Partyka said today at the farm in Kendall. “It’s something different. It’s a niche that not a lot of other people are doing.”
The pumpkin seeds have jumped in popularity in the last three years, with Partyka selling them at Wegmans, and many other farm markets and natural food stores in the region.
The Partykas have equipment that pulls the pumpkins apart in the field and extracts the seeds, which are then washed, dried and roasted.
The Partykas see a bigger market for the product and the federal government announced on Thursday the farm was approved for a grant to help with marketing.
U.S. senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer announced a $170,465 matching grant for Partyka Farms. It was one of 14 grants, totaling $2,279,655, allocated through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Value-Added Producer Grant program. The money goes to help farmers create new products and improve their marketing strategy to raise brand awareness and increase sales.
“Ensuring that agriculture is able to flourish – and the unique needs of New York agriculture are considered in federal programs – has always been a top priority of mine,” Schumer said in a news release. “This direct USDA assistance will allow these businesses in New York State to generate increased economic revenue by bringing new products to market and expanding their operations. Helping our local companies grow their business will be a win-win for our agriculture industry, New York consumers, and the entire regional economies.”
The Partykas have to match the grant. They are looking at developing new bags for the pumpkin seeds and expanding their marketing efforts.
“We need our farmers and local producers to thrive if we’re going to have a strong and growing economy in New York,” said Gillibrand, the first NY senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years. “This investment will help our producers receive the resources needed to bring their products to market and continue to help drive economic growth across the state.”