They look like pumpkins in the field, and the end product is marketed as "pumpkin seeds," but technically they are squash and squash seeds.
Despite the elastic terminology, Autumn Seed Inc. has firmed up its grasp on the market in the past 60 years. Howard Ropp's father started the business back in 1943, producing 100,000 pounds of seeds. Now Howard and his son Greg oversee a company putting out 2.5 million pounds in a good year.
"We're the only ones in the U.S. doing this," Greg Ropp said. "Our only competitor is China. And they can't match us for quality."
"We build our own harvesters, which handle up to 60,000 pounds a day," Howard Ropp said. "We've got nine of them, and run six at a time, but we don't sell them."
"The Chinese would love to have these machines," Greg Ropp added.
"Our harvest runs from September through about the second week of November," he said. "We've got about 15 full-time workers right now, and four full-time year-round - two full-time fabricators and two in the warehouse. A lot of retired guys come work for us during harvest, driving and whatnot."
The dried squash seeds are shipped to several roasters, "David and Sons being one you'd recognize," Greg Ropp said. Once the seeds are roasted and ready for market, then they can be called pumpkin seeds, he said.
Photo by ecstaticist.