Bumper crop

For sale: Picton RSA welfare officer Doug Bushby holds one of the 3000 pumpkins he is selling.
For sale: Picton RSA welfare officer Doug Bushby holds one of the 3000 pumpkins he is selling.

Food options are endless when a friend gives you 3000 pumpkins to take home: pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, roast pumpkin, pumpkin muffins, pancakes, ravioli, cakes, salads....

When a Picton commercial pumpkin grower offered Doug Bushby his spares, the welfare officer for the Picton Returned and Services Association saw greater opportunities.

This week he was selling the pumpkins, and proceeds will be used to buy two big-screen televisions for the RSA clubrooms. Surplus money will be added to its welfare funds.

RSA bar manager Lesley Bell says she and four others joined Doug to help him meet the request the pumpkins be cleared from a paddock in two days.

All were safely harvested a fortnight before overnight temperatures hit zero, she says.

During the collection days Doug, 81, had ignored directions to drive the van while others gathered the pumpkins, Lesley says.

"No, he hops out, climbs down ditches and gets them himself."

This week Doug was hopping in and out of a small white truck laden with pumpkins.

He drove it around town, delivering the heavy vegetables to residents and business owners willing to part with some cash.

At $1 to $1.50 each, depending on size, the pumpkins were bargain buys, but the total cash return meant everyone was a winner.

Picton RSA manager/secretary Michelle Schumacher says life member Doug regularly looks for ways to top up the $3000 RSA welfare budget raised from the annual Poppy Fund.

As part of his weekly welfare duties, he visits RSA members and associate members, including 30 in private homes around Picton, and those who live in rest homes in both Picton and Blenheim.

Everyone receives a small packet of fruit and a chocolate fish, Michelle says.

When Doug returns home to load more pumpkins into the truck this week, he agrees to pause for the camera.

Originally from Upper Hutt, he moved to Picton 15 years ago and has been the RSA welfare officer for the past six to eight years.

The role requires him to attend administration meetings at centres around the top of the south every three months. He also maintains a close knowledge of the Picton club's business affairs by volunteering there each day.

"The office bitch, they call me," he laughs. "I'm there from 8.30am to 11am ... five days a week, sometimes it's more."

The Marlborough Express