michele youngquist baby bayMichele Youngquist is determined to keep the fun in fall.

She married into the farming business at age 21 and started her own business growing pumpkins and an array of conventional and organic specialty squashes in 1999.

Today she says her Burlington, Wash.-based Bay Baby Produce Inc. is the largest grower and decorator of painted miniature pumpkins in the U.S. Painted pumpkins have an edge over carved ones because they don’t break down as readily, she says. They have an eight to 12-week shelf life.

“You prolong the enjoyment out of the pumpkin by painting it for decoration,” she says.

The company uses a proprietary, four-color painting process that ensures consistent quality, she says. Each pumpkin is individually painted and hand decorated. Painting starts in late August, and requires the services of about 20 of the company’s 100-person workforce.

Bay Baby Produce ships thousands of 3- and 5-inch painted pumpkins each season.

Youngquist and her friend and business partner, the late Liz Mitchell, came up with their own characters and decorations.

Retailers have more than 100 Pumpkin Patch Pals -- complete with hats and hair -- to choose from and can request the characters they want.

“They’re great for an instant decoration on your desk, mantel, table or front porch,” she says.

Youngquist adds and takes away characters every year.

The company also makes a grab-and-go paint kit that includes six mini pumpkins, four paint pots and a paint brush so that kids can paint their own pumpkins.

There’s a teachers’ guide at baybabyproduce.com that provides creative ideas for teachers using the pumpkins.

The company also offers long-stem ornamental pumpkins, and there’s a pie-baking kit containing two pumpkins, spices and a quick-response code that takes consumers to a cooking demo on its website.

Bay Baby Produce offers pallet displays and eight-count cartons of painted pie pumpkins and 24-count cartons of Pumpkin Patch Pals.

They start shipping at the end of August, and Youngquist encourages retailers to place their orders early to assure a place on the production schedule.

Painted pumpkins earn a good return on investment for retailers, Youngquist says.

“They’re a good shot in the arm for the fall season to boost produce profits.”

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