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Protests force cancellation of 5K food stomp

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POSTED August 24, 2013 2:17 a.m.

LATHROP — Ron and Susan Dell’Osso don’t want to start a food fight.

They were getting inundated with complaints about their plans to stage a 5K Food Stomp and Tomato Fight on Sept. 21. That included two dozen people who threatened to picket the couple’s popular Pumpkin Maze in October. So they decided to cancel the event. More than 1,000 pre-registrants are having their $55 fees returned.

“People were upset because they thought we were going to waste food that could go to feed needy people,” Susan Dell’Osso said. “We tried to explain it was food that was bruised or had its skin ruptured that would spoil either before it got to market or even to a food bank but that didn’t matter to them.”

Dell’Osso noted the field produce is typically plowed under and allowed to break down to send nutrients back into the soil. She indicated that just like many farmers any excess crop they have that is marketable that they can’t get wholesalers to buy is given to food banks. In some cases, food banks will glean useable produce but in many cases the effort is not worth it.

“We’ve had food banks glean pumpkins but when they’ve tried watermelons what is left is either busted or not edible,’ she said.

The planned 5K Food Stomp and Tomato Fight was believed to have been the first of its kind to be organized. It would have been staged at Dell’Osso Family Farm along Interstate 5 at the San Joaquin River on Saturday, Sept. 21.

Instead of a mud run the plan was to have participants stomp through grapes, wade through watermelon seeds, run through smashed pumpkins, and blaze their way through other produce filled pits to reach the grand finale of being able to participate in a full-scale tomato fight.

The Dell’Osso family launched the Pumpkin Maze 16 years. As many as 150,000 people each year visit the maze making it the biggest agri-tourism attraction in California. They also established an artificial snow tube mountain and an ice rink for Christmas on the farm at the Mathney Road exit on Interstate 5. The farm has also hosted several mud runs.

“We didn’t want to create a situation that hurt what we do in October,” Dell’Osso said of the threatened picketers. “We don’t want to create ill will so we decided to cancel the (5K food stomp).”

Dell’Osso noted benefactors of events they stage each year are area non-profits including ironically food banks.

She added they plan to add an additional mud run in the future to replace the 5K food stomp.

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