If you are lucky enough to live within a day’s drive to a gourd farm, take advantage of it! If you can pick through the gourds and inspect them and imagine design ideas while seeing them in person you have a big advantage indeed. You can of course purchase gourds on-line and even specify shapes and sizes, of which there are many. With reputable gourd farms, you can rest assured you will receive high quality gourds. However, you may get a couple that have minor cracks or blemishes that you wouldn’t get if you had picked them out in person. Most of the time though, you can fix the cracks and work with the blemishes. Many people work these imperfections into the design and they turn out to be an asset.
In my first several years of gourding, I purchased my gourds on-line. The two gourd farms that had been located fairly close to my house, unfortunately both closed down at about the same time I was getting started working with gourds. That left me with one gourd farm nearly 3 hours away and one that was 10+ hours away. Two years ago, my friend CJ and I made a day of it and travelled the 3 hours to the town of Sloughhouse in California and I happily rummaged through thousands of gourds, hunting for the perfect ones. This was my first experience with hand-picking my own gourds so I wasn’t very well prepared. After wandering around in a daze for a while, I decided on choosing large gourds with an hour-glass shape. I left that day with 30+ gourds that filled the back of her SUV. I was so happy because I knew they were all in excellent condition and were perfect for the projects I had in mind. Buying in person usually gets you some kind of bulk or wholesale discount. This particular location had a set price per bag of gourds. They provided the very large bags. We had a good time arranging and re-arranging to make sure we crammed as many gourds as possible into those bags. I have to get my money’s worth after all. Kudos to my friend CJ who drove me 3 hours each way and spent hours watching me pick through gourds, as she is not a gourder herself.
Last year I got a little more serious about my gourd purchases. My husband and I took time off work and flew to San Diego. We then rented a car and headed to Welburn Gourd Farm in Fallbrook, California. It had been a dream of mine to go there in person. Oh boy, I could hardly contain my excitement as we drove along the beautiful, curvy, avocado tree-lined road on the way to the farm. Once there, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were gourds as far as I could see! Seriously. Hundreds of thousands. We quickly realized we needed a plan. I knew what shapes I was looking for so I had to educate my husband and send him off to one section to find the perfect gourds in the shape I described to him. I went another direction to find another shape. Luckily, the farm organizes the gourds in bins and tables by shape. They provided large carts for us to pull around and fill. After a couple hours, I found my husband and did the final inspections on the gourds he had pre-selected for me. That saved us so much time. We pulled those five full carts over to the nice gal working there that day and she started sorting and pricing them. I went and filled two more carts while she did her pricing. I started to worry that she thought we were really just crazy people buying so many gourds. Now I realize she probably sees crazy gourd people every day.
When she finished sorting and pricing, we went into the shop and purchased supplies and tools. Better to buy them there and save on shipping. After finishing shopping and loading the car, we still had space, so we headed back and filled another bag of smaller gourds.
At this particular farm, gourds are priced based on size. The size is determined by the diameter at the widest part. They had a board with holes cut in it. Each hole is measured by diameter in inches. The biggest hole the gourd will NOT fit through determines the size and price. For example, if you have a gourd that fits through a 6″ hole but will NOT fit through a 5″ hole, then your gourd is considered a 5″ gourd and is priced as a 5″ gourd.
When all was said and done, we had spent around $900 and filled the entire rental car with over 140 gourds. We were lucky to be able to fit our suitcases back into the car. We spent two days driving back home, stopping to sightsee and visit friends along the way.
Now you may think this sounds absurd. Why would we spend the time and money to fly, rent a car, hotels, etc, when we could have just ordered on-line? I think it was totally worth it. It was such a wonderful experience. First of all, shipping gourds purchased on-line can be rather expensive since the boxes are usually so large. Second of all, just the thrill of being surrounded by so many gourds was like heaven. Every single gourd I brought home was hand-picked and I know it is in perfect condition and the perfect shape for all the designs swirling around in my head. Plus, we made it into a mini vacation and had a great time. Those reasons alone make it completely worthwhile. I can hardly wait to go back again. My husband says I first have to use up my current stash though.
There are several great gourd farms scattered throughout the country. You can search for them on-line. If you live anywhere near one, I suggest you start planning a mini vacation that involves a visit to pick out some perfect gourds.
Have a game plan though. Being face to face with so many gourds can feel overwhelming! Know what shapes appeal to you. Know what you might like to do with them. Test them to make sure they stand up straight. Make sure there are no soft spots or cracks. Do you want them still dirty and moldy from the fields or pre-cleaned? Will you need to hide them from your spouse? Do you have a place to store them (away from rats and squirrels who like to chew holes in them)? Will you want to purchase gourd tools and supplies at the farm also? Make a list. Bring someone to help you. And pack lightly so you have plenty of room in your car to bring your load home.
As I just mentioned, you can purchase your gourds already cleaned and craft-ready. They cost a bit more, but if you just don’t want to deal with cleaning the grunge off, you can get pre-cleaned ones. I buy mine au natural and clean them myself as it is pretty easy (I discuss that in my blog How to clean gourds). From some sources, you can also purchase them with their tops cut off and cleaned out on the inside. That would be handy if you don’t have the tools needed to cut or saw the openings or the special tools needed to clean the inside gunk. The extra price you pay for that convenience could be worth it because you wouldn’t have to purchase those extra tools. You can even buy birdhouse gourds with the hole already drilled so all you have to do is decorate!
Here are a few links to some gourd farms. I know there are plenty more than what I have listed here. I only mention the ones that I am familiar with. If you google “gourd farms”, you will get about 595,000 hits. With that many, I hope there is one easily accessible to you. Check out several of the websites to get a feel for what is out there and what’s available.