Fruits of hard labor: Wyoming growers dominate the giant pumpkin field
On Oct. 9 at the 50th World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, Calif., a new world record was set with an entry weighing 2,749 pounds. The giant pumpkin was grown by Travis Gienger, a horticulture teacher from Minnesota.
Wyoming growers are also dominating giant pumpkin competitions, despite Wyoming’s harsh growing season.
Growing giant pumpkins is a science, and producers have to cultivate the giant fruits from Atlantic Giant seeds.
Closer to home
Worland Pumpkin Producer Jay Richard is on a mission to grow a giant. Richard has been growing competitive giant pumpkins for over 12 years, and this year he launched Project P2K.
Project P2K began early in 2023, when Richard broke ground to build a custom geothermal-heated greenhouse with the hopes of growing a 2,000-pound giant pumpkin in northern Wyoming.
“It was a great growing year even if I didn’t grow a 2,000-pound pumpkin, but that is the goal,” Richard stated. “I did dedicate this year to my brother Steve Richard, who passed in July. He was my personal cheerleader.”
Richard celebrated multiple wins this year, first at the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers Center Street Weigh-Off in Logan, Utah on Sept. 23 where “Marion,” his giant pumpkin, tipped the scales at 1,784 pounds.
He continued his winning streak on Sept. 30 at the Jared’s Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Littleton, Colo., where “Joanie” weighed in at 1,686 pounds.
“Marion ended up with a stretch mark, which could have led to a bad ending,” Richard explained. “Pumpkins get stretch marks when they grow faster on the inside than on the outside, and it can create a split in the pumpkin, causing it to collapse or be disqualified.”
He continued, “She was getting tired, so I had to stop her from growing. It cost me some pounds, but she stayed intact and pulled out a win.”
On Oct. 7, growers gathered in Worland for the Wyoming State Pumpkin Championship Weigh-Off, where Richard took home the win with a massive 1,362-pound pumpkin named “Leather Tuscadero.”
“I name all my pumpkins. Last year’s theme was the ‘Golden Girls,’ and this year’s theme was ‘Happy Days,’” Richard remarked with enthusiasm. “We had a successful growing year, but I am already prepping for next year.”
“We have a lot of great growers here in Wyoming, and we all support each other,” Richard noted. “But this year was very special, as fellow grower Andy Corbin and myself were awarded the prestigious Gen 2 Jackets.”
“If a grower makes it into the 4,300-pound club with the combined weight of three pumpkins, they are awarded a jacket,” Richard explained.
According to the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth’s (GPC) website, jackets are awarded to pumpkins weighing 2,200 pounds for the current calendar year and growers will only be awarded one Gen 2 Jacket. Still, patches can be earned for each weight class achieved for the year.
The 4,300-pound club award goes to a grower who accumulates a total of 4,300 pounds of pumpkins, squash or a combination of three of their heaviest fruit.
If a grower makes it into the 4,300-pound club before being awarded a Gen 2 Jacket, they will be awarded one for making the 4,300-pound club.
The mission of the GPC is to cultivate the hobby of growing giant pumpkins throughout the world by establishing regulations ensuring the quality of fruit, fairness of competition, recognition of achievement, fellowship and education for all participating growers and weigh-off sites.
Ron Hoffman, another local giant pumpkin grower from Riverton, also traveled to Utah with Richard and placed third with a 1,395-pound entry and took home second-place honors in Worland with a massive 1,362-pound pumpkin.
Giant pumpkin sets
new state record
Growing giant pumpkins is not an easy task, but spectators were able to see these spectacular fruits up close at the Fort Collins Nursery’s Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off and Fall Jamboree Oct. 14 in Fort Collins, Colo.
The local event allowed growers to discuss what it takes to grow these giants, but the competition also featured additional weigh-off categories for watermelons, squashes and gourds.
Wyoming growers Andy and Amy Corbin of Cheyenne spent all summer nurturing their pumpkin patch, and their hard work paid off at the Colorado weigh-off.
They set a new Wyoming state record with their giant pumpkin, weighing in at 2,062 pounds, beating the old state record they had set last year with an 1,845-pound pumpkin.
Corbin explained he grew up farming and has been growing pumpkins since he was 11 and involved in 4-H.
“My dad grew up in Greybull, and my mom was reared in Powell,” he stated. “My relatives, the Northrups, are still actively farming and ranching in the Powell area.”
Today, Corbin still carries a love for pumpkins and continues trying to grow the largest pumpkins possible every year. Thirteen years ago, he started growing competitively, and used to sit on the GPC Board, which creates rules governing pumpkin competitions.
Corbin shared, “This year we attended four weigh-offs in Colorado and won three of them. If we had switched the order of our pumpkins, we could have easily won all four weigh-offs.”
“We did have some trouble this year with voles and mice – they are our biggest challenge,” he added. “When we lifted the 2,062-pound pumpkin, we found a mouse nest underneath it, and they had started chewing on the fruit. Luckily nothing had been damaged, but we have lost several nice pumpkins in the past to them.”
Corbin continued, “The growing community is small and very interactive about pushing each other to set their personal best. I created a website growers around the world use to track the genetics of their pumpkins. It can be found at tools.pumpkinfanatic.com.”
Corbin further explained growers can use the site to determine what to grow the following season.
“We have been taking the giant pumpkins around to local schools and fall community events. Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces is the best part,” he concluded.
The Corbins are planning to take a year off to enjoy some fishing, hiking and the outdoors next year.
Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.