Pumpkin Fundraiser Plants a Seed for Ronald McDonald Donation
As a young boy growing up on 4-C-Sons Dairy near Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds Forage Products Manager Corey Catt developed an interest in how nutrition affected the animals in his care. He also was committed to making a difference in his community and the world around him.
“My parents were always visiting family and friends in the nursing homes, as well as those who lost spouses or going through a tough patch in life,” says Corey. “My favorite grandmother, who had been very active, was in a bad car accident that left her in a wheelchair. This gave me and my brothers perspective to the challenges people face.”
Corey’s mom was a nurse and an emergency medical technician (EMT), and he attended classes with her when he was young. He also was in an accident when he was a kid. “I will never forget those who helped me from the EMT’s to a wonderful community that supported our family and farm operations during that time. All this support and kindness from others added some depth and desire to want to help others in some way.”
His life experience also explains Corey’s diverse interests and multi-faceted career. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls with a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in Agronomy, Nutrition and Economics. He took EMT training at night after attending college classes during his first fall in college. He later advanced training to become a Nationally Registered Paramedic.
“One of my paramedic colleagues from the ambulance service was telling me about a fundraiser his dad did. Every spring he would start seeds for giant pumpkins. Then he would sell the seedlings to people in the community to raise money for a community fundraiser, and in the fall, they had a big pumpkin weigh-off party. It was similar to a 50-50 raffle where half the money was reserved for the winner with the biggest pumpkin, and the other half was donated to kids with disabilities,” said Corey.
Corey’s friend needed a place to grow his giant pumpkin for the fundraiser and asked if he could plant it at 4-C-Sons Dairy. Their first attempt yielded them about a 200-pound pumpkin, so they accepted a challenge to grow a bigger pumpkin the following year. Some people claim there are lots of secrets to growing a giant pumpkin, but Corey says it’s a lot is like farming because we need Mother Nature to cooperate.
“That fundraiser planted a seed in the back of my mind,” said Corey. “It got me thinking about ways I could help others.”
Fast forward a few years and an opportunity presented itself. Corey was asked to be a godfather for two of his friends’ daughters. When the girls grew older, Corey wanted to do an activity with his goddaughters that would allow them to experience the feeling of giving back by helping others. Corey planted his first pumpkin patch about 20 years ago, and then he reached out to the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis to see if he and his goddaughters could donate pumpkins there. In subsequent years, he contacted Ronald McDonald Houses in Milwaukee because they were closer to where his other goddaughters lived. He also has donated to Rochester.
“Delivering pumpkins to Ronald McDonald Houses led to meaningful conversations with my goddaughters, House managers, and the families that stay there,” said Corey. “We were given tours of the houses, so my goddaughters learned about kids their ages who were battling pediatric cancer. A house manager at the Ronald House in Milwaukee explained how decorating pumpkins brings some normalcy to a chaotic life. It’s a source of comfort to these families, even if it’s just for a moment in time.”
“The love is palpable inside the Ronald McDonald House,” adds Corey. “Everyone there is so kind. There are volunteers who are gardening, preparing meals and leading crafts. My role isn’t large, but it’s a way to support these families. This year we delivered pumpkins in time for a large move-in event at the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis. Our pumpkins, straw bales and corn shocks helped welcome these families to their home away from home.”
The Pumpkins Must Get Delivered
Just as rain and snow couldn’t keep the Pony Express from delivering, Corey doesn’t allow the weather to prevent him from delivering pumpkins.
“I’ve been extremely blessed to have a good friend who graciously grows a big pumpkin patch every year, so I have a backup supply,” says Corey. “When I’ve had production issues due to hail or drought, he has come through. This year he grew the most beautiful weed free patch that I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s nice to have friends who contribute, too.”
Raising pumpkins on a large scale takes time and effort. Corey says he’s in a constant battle with weeds and insects when he’s not working with dairy and beef producers through his job with Latham Seeds or working as a paramedic at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.
“Some days you wonder if it’s really worth it, and then you’re reminded why you’re doing this,” says Corey. “One day I was delivering pumpkins to a Ronald McDonald House when I saw a little girl with tubes hanging everywhere. I could just feel the heaviness of this mom. It honestly made my heart ache as I imagined all her concerns: hospital bills, insurance, missed work, other kids at home.
This little girl walked by one a warty pumpkin and said, ‘Look, Mommy. This one has bumps.’ She smiled the biggest smile. That little, warty pumpkin brought her so much joy. I could see the mom find a fragment of joy in that moment, and that one moment made a summer’s worth of work all worth it.”
Corey adds, “Everyone has pieces of their heart they want to give, but not everyone knows how to share it. It took a lot of phone calls for me to figure out how to give back to Ronald McDonald Houses, but it has been so rewarding. I believe each one of us can find a way to make a difference. That’s one thing I appreciate about Latham Seeds. This family-owned company is about more than business… It’s about making a difference.”
In honor of October as both Pork and Pumpkin Month, today we’re sharing a recipe for Pork & Pumpkin Chili. Plus, pumpkin has many health benefits! Pumpkin is highly nutritious. It’s high in beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A. Studies show that vitamin A can strengthen your immune system and help fight infections.
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In honor of October as both Pork and Pumpkin Month, today we’re sharing a recipe for Pork & Pumpkin Chili. Plus, pumpkin has many health benefits! Pumpkin is highly nutritious. It’s high in beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A. and is particularly rich in Vitamin A. Studies show that vitamin A can strengthen your immune system and help fight infections.
Pork and Pumpkin Chili
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 3 c. chicken broth
- 10-oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies
- 15-oz can black beans (rinsed and drained)
- 1 pound pork sausage, browned and drained
- 15-oz can solid packed pumpkin
- 2 or 3 T. chili powder
- Tabasco to taste
- 2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
- 1½ tsp. dried oregano
- 1½ tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. salt
- In a large skillet, brown pork sausage with onion and garlic.
- Stir remailing ingredients in crockpot; add pork sausage.
- Cover and cook on low for at least four hours or until heated through.
- Top with shredded Cheddar or Mexican cheese, salsa, sour cream and tortilla chips.