Cold takes toll on fall harvest for crops at 'Luffa Gardens'

FRESNO, California -- It's a product that has taken the world by storm.

Since we first featured Luffa Gardens on Action News and then on the ABC digital platform "Localish," the stories have been viewed almost 20 million times.

The Pauls family began its fall luffa harvest Monday, but they say the cold has already damaged some of their crops.

Nathan Pauls is going through his vines to pick all of the brown or slightly yellow luffa sponge pods.

"There is a completely dry one," Nathan said.

The tops of the vines reveal frost damage. Pauls doesn't expect this fall crop to be as good as the one he picked in the summer.

"So far I think we've lost 20 percent," he said.

The cucumber-like vegetable is prone to freeze damage.

Nathan's wife and daughter were right there with him scooping up luffa.

Sales have slowed but Luffa Gardens is still selling about 20 items a day.

"It's really surprising. I've been really amazed at how quickly it's taken off," said Sherri Pauls.

The family business has basically captured lighting in a bottle. People all over want these sponges and exfoliating pads.

"We had one from Kazakhstan this morning, from Greece and Australia," Nathan said.

Daughter Jessica showed some of the items customers can't seem to get enough of.

"These little face pads are the best," Jessica Potter said.

The pads with soap attached have also been popular.

"My parents have grown up dirt poor their whole life, so to this taking off for them is amazing," Potter said.

Potter is a sophomore at Clovis Community College. She has now changed her major to Business Marketing to help her parents.

Mom Sherri is a schoolteacher who plans to work the sponge into a lesson plan.

"I'm going to have to bring a luffa and show them the process," said Sherri.

Nathan's just trying to fill orders. After soaking luffa for at least a day it's ready for a rinsing and processing.

A greenhouse will allow him to expand the growing area on his small farm.

"Even if January or February if we have it ready we'll definitely plant as soon as its ready," Nathan said.

The sponge pods yet to be harvested will keep the family busy through the holidays and beyond.
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