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Massachusetts Man Paddles Eight Miles in a 1200-Pound Pumpkin 'Boat'

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Todd Sandstrum isn’t the first person to transform a large, hollowed-out pumpkin into a seaworthy boat. But according to The Enterprise, the Easton, Massachusetts resident is likely the only individual who’s ever paddled a 1240-pound gourd for eight miles straight.

On Saturday, September 3, Sandstrum made a successful effort to sail his way into the Guinness World Records by attempting a category he’d created himself: “Longest Journey in a Pumpkin Boat (paddling).” In all, the trip only took Sandstrum around four hours, 13 minutes to complete. The feat isn’t officially verified yet—but the daring farmer's chances look pretty good; he traveled eight miles down the Taunton River, from Dighton to Fall River, inside a pumpkin that won a weigh-off at the Marshfield Fair in Marshfield, Massachusetts in August.

This isn’t Sandstrum’s first shot at a world record. Last year, in September 2015, he resolved to steer an 800-pound pumpkin nearly 14 miles down the Taunton River. A sprained ankle forced the sailor to set a more realistic goal, and he ended up striving for nearly eight miles instead. Ultimately, because of the injury, leg cramps, and other logistical difficulties, Sandstrum only completed around four miles. This length was much shorter than he'd aimed for, even though the Guinness organization had set a looser, three-mile guideline for the first-time feat.

This year, Sandstrum wanted to beat his personal goal by paddling even further—and to verify his accomplishment, he ensured the entire thing was captured on video. (Last year's attempt didn't have full video documentation from start to finish, Sandstrum told The Enterprise, so it didn't end up making Guinness.)

According to Modern Farmer, both pumpkin stunts were performed to promote agricultural awareness and education. Sandstrum is a consultant for Crave Food Services, an online service that pairs restaurants with local farmers, and he’s passionate about “getting kids out in the dirt and growing something, and to understand where food comes from,” he told the magazine.

Along with his wife, Genevieve, Sandstrum launched the South Shore Great Pumpkin Challenge five years ago. They give Atlantic Giant pumpkin seeds to Massachusetts school kids, and the institution that grows the most massive gourd earns a $1000 grant that goes toward agricultural education. But Sandstrum wasn’t receiving attention for his efforts, so he decided to attempt his pumpkin stunt to garner more media coverage. Needless to say, it worked.

For more information on Sandstrum’s Guinness Record attempts, visit his website.

[h/t Modern Farmer]

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Food
Thanks to a Wet Winter, New Zealand Faces a Potential Potato Chip Shortage
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New Zealand has plenty of unique and tasty snacks, but kiwis also love potato chips. The universal comfort food is in danger Down Under, however, as an unusually wet winter has devastated the island country’s tuber crops, according to BBC News.

Twenty percent of New Zealand’s annual potato crop was wiped out from a series of major storms and floods that ravaged the nation’s North and South Islands, The Guardian reports. In some regions, up to 30 percent of potato crops were affected, with the varieties used to make chips bearing the brunt of the damage.

Potato prices spiked as farmers struggled, but the crisis—now dubbed “chipocalypse” by media outlets—didn't really make the mainstream news until supermarket chain Pak’nSave posted announcements in potato chip aisles that warned customers of a salty snack shortage until the New Year.

Pak’nSave has since rescinded this explanation, claiming instead that they made an ordering error. However, other supermarket chains say they’re working directly with potato chip suppliers to avoid any potential shortfalls, and are aware that supplies might be limited for the foreseeable future.

New Zealand’s potato farming crisis extends far beyond the snack bars at rugby matches and vending machines. Last year’s potato crops either rotted or remained un-harvested, and the ground is still too wet to plant new ones. This hurts New Zealand’s economy: The nation is the world’s ninth-largest exporter of potatoes.

Plus, potatoes “are a food staple, and this is becoming a food security issue as the effects of climate change take their toll on our potato crop,” says Chris Claridge, the chief executive of industry group Potatoes New Zealand, according to The Guardian.

In the meantime, New Zealanders are preparing to hunker down for a few long months of potential potato peril—and according to some social media users, kale chips are not a suitable alternative. “Chipocalypse” indeed.

[h/t BBC News]

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See (Probably) the World's Heaviest Squash in All Its Glory
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A Rhode Island man has likely set a world record for growing the world’s heaviest squash, the Associated Press reports.

Joe Jutras stole the show with his giant squash at last weekend’s Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Pumpkin Weigh-off. It tipped the scales at 2118 pounds, shattering grower Scott Holub’s 2016 record of 837 pounds.

Jutras, a retired cabinet maker from Scituate, Rhode Island, has spent the last 20 years or so growing giant foods, according to NPR. In 2006, he scored a Guinness Record for producing the world's longest gourd (127 inches), and in 2007 he grew a record-breaking pumpkin that weighed 1689 pounds. These titles are no longer in the book, but Jutras is still the only person who’s ever set world records in the pumpkin, gourd, and squash categories, making him a celebrity of sorts among growers.

Jutras says he’s finally seeing the (literal) fruits of his labor, after trying for years to hit this elusive trifecta. A few years ago he was on track with another giant squash, but it split before weigh-in time. This time around, Jutras used a seed from last year’s world-record holding squash and nurtured it to greatness using new and improved farming techniques.

Guinness still hasn’t confirmed Jutras’s giant squash as the world’s largest, but he’s confident that it will reign supreme. As for the hefty fruit itself, it’s going on display at the New York Botanical Garden, where it will be carved for a Halloween display.

[h/t Associated Press]

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