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October 12, 2012

Pumpkin tree 'grows' at Smolak Farms

NORTH ANDOVER – If you didn’t know any better, you’d think they were growing pumpkins on a tree at Smolak Farms.

“Oh, that’s so cool!” a man said upon seeing dozens of sugar pumpkins hanging from the tree near the edge of South Bradford Street, which cuts through the farm property.

From several feet away, it appears the tree has actually sprouted dozens of pumpkins. Some folks may wonder if the farm has developed a cold-weather orange tree.

Closer examination, however, reveals that the compact sugar pumpkins – definitely not the hefty variety that compete at the Topsfield Fair – are attached by wires to the branches of a sturdy Cortland apple tree.

The pumpkin tree has turned out to be quite a conversation piece, according to Adam Sapienza, head of festivals at Smolak Farms.

“Many people stop and take pictures of it,” he said. The idea of decorating an apple tree with pumpkins came from none other than Michael Smolak, owner of Smolak Farms.

“I like to think out of the box,” said Smolak, whose family has operated the farm at Dale and South Bradford streets for 85 years. The “unusual” sight of pumpkins “growing” from a tree was bound to “stimulate some thought,” Smolak said.

He noted that many people these days don’t grasp that food comes from farms. The plummeting number of farms is probably a major reason for that lack of awareness..

One woman took the pumpkin tree too seriously, Smolak said. She accused him of misleading her child into thinking that pumpkins really do grow on trees.

“She was irate,” he said.

The pumpkin tree, which made its appearance three weeks ago, is helping to usher in the Pumpkin Festival, which will take place at the farm tomorrow and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Besides tons of pumpkins, the farm grows apples, including macoun, McIntosh, red delicious, empire and Granny Smith; strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes and assorted vegetables.

The land at Dale and South Bradford streets has been farmed for more than 300 years, according to Sapienza.

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