By Melody Reynolds
Pumpkins of all sizes have been the indication that fall has arrived for centuries. Front steps lined with carved jack lanterns, glowing in the dark of the night, guide trick or treater’s to the door. However, pumpkins are reaching high levels of excitement all around the country. Giant pumpkins and squash are being grown to break records and make front page news. Giant pumpkin growing has not only become a hobby for some growers, but a lucrative business for farmers.
The Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Association refers to growing pumpkins as a sport. Indeed some pumpkins reach Olympic sizes and go on to be champions in impressive weigh offs, but they are also being used as a source for agri-entertainment.
Hosting a giant pumpkin weigh off at your farm can create many avenues of income. The excitement can start early in the spring before the last frost has released its winter grip. Advertising your contest in the spring can get people to your farm to purchase seeds, growing tips and attend workshops making this a three season event. Seeds from award winning pumpkins can be sold to your local future growers. Several hundred seeds can be harvested from one giant pumpkin and some are sold for $5-$10 each. The sales from these seeds and growing tips can be used to create prize premiums for your contest to happen late the following October and compliment all you fall festival activities. In addition, you can package special compost and create kits for the general public to be able to weigh in on your competition.
Your pumpkin weigh off can include all ages and types of pumpkins. You can create categories so everyone gets a chance to be a winner. Every grower who attends your weigh off will bring many friends and family that will expose your farm to future customers.
Planning to attend a pumpkin weigh off prior to hosting your own can give you tips on what you will need to host successfully. In addition to having all the right equipment you will also need many extra hands to manage the pumpkins and the crowds.
When talking to a grower of a giant pumpkin it is easy to feel their passion. It is easy to infuse people with the excitement of growing a giant pumpkin. When you offer people this opportunity on your farm you will inspire future growers and people who will want to join the growing frenzy. Endless amounts of growing tips and videos online offer new growers lots of advice.
Similar to grandma’s recipe for pumpkin pie, everyone does things a bit different to grow a giant pumpkin, but the end results can all be satisfying. Oregon State University Extension Service, http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/how-grow-monster-pumpkin-0, and Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Association, http://www.sngpg.com offers lots of advice and growing secrets. Some growers start an IV of goat milk, fish emulsion and seaweed. All sources agree that the giant pumpkin seeds need to come from good genetics and need to be started indoors early in the spring. Giant pumpkin plants require 140 days or more growth time until harvest. Growers start seeds in late April, and harvest fruit in early October for the weigh off.