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Until recently, Gerald Stratford was simply a retired granddad with a passion for growing huge veg. Now, Gerald Statford is still a retired granddad with a passion for growing huge veg, but also a social media influencer, of sorts.
The 71-year-old, from Milton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, UK, joined Twitter in February last year after some of his friends suggested it as a means of sharing gardening photos.
But former fisherman Gerald hadn't a clue what was happening to his phone when he shared photographs of his potatoes in May - in a tweet that has now totted up more than 81,000 likes.
My first early rocket very pleased pic.twitter.com/TbWHZAnkNw
- gerald stratford (@geraldstratfor3) May 17, 2020
Speaking to LADbible, Gerald recalled: "I put it on Twitter and the phone went mental. I didn't understand really what was going on.
"I phoned my nephew up, who's more into computers than me, and he said, 'I'll come back in five minutes'. He says, 'You've gone viral'... I even had to ask him what that meant."
From there, Gerald's popularity has snowballed, to the point that he now boasts almost 90,000 followers. So, who are these people?
"I do think there's quite a large proportion coming from the US of A, the younger generation," Gerald said.
"I don't really know why. But obviously they like me and my veg and my smile, and if that's the case, that's what I will give them."
Gerald has even been given a few new nicknames by his international fan-base.
He said: "I'm 'The Potato King', 'The Vegetable King', 'Cheers' - because I finish off all my tweets with the word 'cheers', right, because I like the word, it's a happy word. It sends a positive happy message.
"They also comment on my clothing. They like my braces, the clothing, they call me stuff like 'a cool dude'. Some of the American sayings I struggle to understand, I've never been to the States.
"It's all good though, I haven't had one negative [comment]. Long may it continue."
But you don't earn yourself a moniker like The Vegetable King without growing some serious veg - and Gerald really has. Among the greatest hits are a 152lb pumpkin, 50lb marrows and a 31-inch cucumber. He's also currently growing a tromboncino, a cucumber-like variety of squash, which has a 16-inch circumference and is 51 inches in length.
This is the first time I have grown a tromboncino it's very interesting cheers pic.twitter.com/aYwnu0wzUp
- gerald stratford (@geraldstratfor3) September 18, 2020
As for why his massive veggies have proven so popular, Gerald reckons the coronavirus pandemic might have had something to do with it; that and the universal appeal of vegetables.
He said: "People are worried, young and old. People across the world are worried about Covid-19, and if I can sort of get people away from that doom and gloom for a few seconds or a few minutes, it's got to be good.
"Plus, you know, a vegetable is a nice, wholesome thing - we all eat veg don't we? Regardless of your creed, or whatever, you know, somewhere along the line each day, you will consume some vegetable."
Now what shall I do with this big boy celery pic.twitter.com/OoZq2kkwVv
- gerald stratford (@geraldstratfor3) September 4, 2020
But what does social media star Gerald have his sights set on next: picking up a partnership with Homebase, planting himself on the 'Gram, or perhaps digging into the world of TikTok?
Nope, none of the above. He wants to grow a massive onion.
Gerald said: "I've always got an ambition to grow a large onion. With a vegetable, it's like fishing, when you catch a fish or a vegetable of a certain size, you want to go bigger.
"It's hard to get a 10lb onion. I would be pleased with that... and I will get there. God give me strength."
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