Inside the Small, Quirky World of Giant Pumpkin Growers
There's just something about pumpkins, isn't there? It doesn't matter whether they're big or small, round or lop-sided, in pie form or drink form, once September hits, pumpkins are king.
But there's one group of people whose love for pumpkins knows literally no bounds. There's no denying that the tight-knit group of men and women who compete to grow the world's biggest pumpkins are a unique bunch—one that inspires both awe and intrigue.
How in the world do they end in competitive pumpkin growing? Well, like most things, it's easy to get hooked on.
"You start with a seed about the size of your thumbnail. You get hooked. I think it becomes an obsession more than a hobby," Woody Lancaster, a member of the New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Association, told Chowhound. "Everybody loves the pumpkin, but it takes a lot of work." Lancaster told the site that he spends about two hours a day caring for his pumpkins.
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But his hard work has paid off. Last year his superb 2,003.5-pound squash took first place in the giant pumpkin weigh-off at the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts.
"I've liked pumpkins since I was little, but when you get one that grows 20 to 50 pounds a day…it's pretty amazing to see these things grow," Ryan Joyner, the president of the Pacific Northwest Giant Pumpkin Growers (PNWGPG), told Chowhound. "It's super unreal."
As for how they get their pumpkins to grow so big, Lancaster said everyone has their own method. Each grower has their opinions on fertilizers, soil, sprinkler systems, time in the sun, and even what kind of music pumpkins like. (Some swear that playing jazz helps their pumpkins grow.)
"We all have a tendency to talk to our pumpkins, whether it's out loud or under our breath," Lancaster revealed. "That's pretty much universal. There seems to be this connection that…you really treat them like a baby."
There is one factor that even the most dedicated pumpkin parents can't control: the weather. Pumpkins don't do well in extremely hot or cold weather, which is why the biggest pumpkins are often found in the northern states.
Whether you sing to your pumpkins or read them poetry, one thing's for certain: for these folks, bigger is always better.