GREEN ISLE — A Green Isle woman figured out how to ease some gardeners’ melon-choly.
Chris Schroeder’s noticed the melons in her garden weren’t always picture perfect. Bugs, grubs and assorted underside yuck saw to that.
So she came up with RotNot.
Resembling a miniature plastic step stool, the perforated RotNot ensures the bottoms of pumpkins, squash, cantaloupes and other melons come out of the garden looking as good as the tops.
Schroeder, a Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow driver, said her innovation actually was spurred by ignorance.
“The first year I started growing melons I didn’t know I was supposed to turn them, so when I picked them up (upon ripening) all the bellies fell out of them.”
She said rotating a subsequent crop had its shortcomings as well — vines broke when she moved fruit.
At first she used concrete blocks to keep them high and dry, but toting them did her in.
“All you’re going to get out of that is a sore back and a trip to the E.R.”
Next, she cut up a bunch of plastic laundry detergent bottles and punched aeration holes in them, but those failed because they weren’t strong enough to support the melons.
At that point she knew she needed help if she wanted to proceed, so armed with startup money from her mother, she had a prototype done up and took it to a trade show looking for a manufacturer.
She said a Chinese company expressed interest, but she declined.
“I wanted these to be made here in America.”
Her next stop was a plastics firm in Minneapolis, which tried to wrench $36,000 out of her to produce a mold. She said she beat a hasty retreat.
“I knew the guy was trying to heist me or whatever.”
Then a plastics molding company in Glencoe became involved. A mold was designed, a Faribault firm was contracted to produce the items, and she was in business. The products are sold in some garden centers and online (www.rotnot.net).
Schroeder said she hasn’t made enough money on them to quit her day job, but she’s keeping that hope alive.
“My boss at MnDOT said, ‘Do you realize you could become a millionaire someday and you’d quit working here?’ and I said, ‘I’m OK with that.’”