The “Pumpkin Man” of Tea: Someone You Should Know

TEA, S.D. — This time each year, the number of places to pick out a fall pumpkin are nearly endless — grocery stores, street-side stands, and of course, family farms.

However, one unique produce stand in Tea draws hundreds of pumpkin connoisseurs each year. Not only for their wide variety of pumpkins, but also in part because of the interesting man who sells them.

“Most pumpkins have about three hundred seeds”

Roger Heidinger knows a thing or two about pumpkins.

“They’re definitely not a fruit; they’re definitely a vegetable under the vegetable section.”

His pumpkin expertise comes from more than a decade of growing, harvesting, and selling.

“I think they’re all unique, and every one is a little different.”

Where he sells them is also rather unique.

“Some people just can’t really believe, when they pull up, just how many are here.”

Nearly three thousand pumpkins litter the front lawn, driveway, and garage of his Tea home.

“We’ve got some Cinderella pumpkins like this, they’re round and flat.”

“We have some nice tall ones.”

“We have white ones over here.”

“People either love or hate these, they’re the warty ones they’re called.”

“We have Aladdin versions, we have Gladiators that we plant, those are very common varieties.”

Along with a plentiful variety, Pumpkin pickers can expect a few helpful tips from the self-proclaimed “Pumpkin Man.”

“What I would look for, if I’m looking for a pumpkin, is a good stem and a good, solid core pumpkin,” he said.

What started with just 100 plants in the span of 11 years has turned in to thousands at Roger’s Country Produce.

And it’s not just Roger, pumpkining is a family affair.

His wife works on the social media and his son does a lot of the heavy lifting.

“Sometime is wish I didn’t do it, but it’s fun in the end, said Roger’s son, Jon.

“Sometimes, my family is kinda like, ‘This is too crazy, and we are too crazy to do this!’ said Roger. “And as time goes on and I get kinda older I kinda think I am too crazy to do this.”

The consideration to stop has crossed Roger’s mind.

Last year, sales took a 30 percent hit.

“We believe it was related to weather, because of warmer weather people don’t buy as many, and because possibly because of other competition as well.”

But this year, the severe drought that impacted so many actually provided a boost for him plump pumpkin crop.

“There was enough rain to keep them blossoming through the summer, a quarter inch here and there which helped. And then in August, we got three or four inches of rain and it really helped produce a lot. More, better pumpkins. I think this is one of our top three years of what quality of pumpkins that we have. We have a lot of pumpkins that are well into the 20, 30 pound range.“

Even with a full time job, pumpkins are his passion and not something he’d like to give up.

“I’m a farmer at heart, grew up on the farm so you just gotta keep doing some farm things and this kinda was my thing so never knew it would be 15 years ago, but now it is.”

So with the shortfalls of 2016 year under his belt, Roger and his pumpkins are hoping for a plentiful 2017 harvest of customers.

“So we’re kind of feeling our way through this, as long as the community keeps supporting it, we’ll keep doing it as long as we can.”

Roger grows the pumpkins just outside of Tea.

He sells them at his home in Tea on South Mary Avenue.

Pumpkins sell by the single, bundle and even trailer’s full.

If you’ve picked up a pumpkin at the Sunshine Foods or Ace Hardware in Tea, Roger grows those too.