Giant pumpkins bring joy, break records at Ohio weigh-off

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Workers move a pumpkin off the scale at the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers Weigh-Off Oct. 8, 2022 at Parks Garden Center, in Canfield, Ohio. (Rachel Wagoner photo)

CANFIELD, Ohio — Growing a giant pumpkin is not for the faint of heart. It requires good soil, lots of water, the right temperatures, according to longtime growers, — as well as a lot of emotional commitment.

“I had to do surgery on this pumpkin,” said Matthew Baughman, who grew a giant pumpkin this year for the first time with his wife, Emily. He cut open the vine to extract insects that were threatening to eat through the pumpkin’s stem. “I had to nurse it back to health. I talked to it every single day.”

The Baughmans’ pumpkin weighed in at 173 pounds at the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers Weigh-Off Oct. 8, at Parks Garden Center, in Canfield. It was one of the smaller pumpkins, but a good first attempt for the family.

The Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers annual weigh-off is a seriously good time for growers and attendees alike.

It’s serious because the weigh-off is top in the world for having heavy hitting growers involved. The club ranked first last year for having the heaviest average weight between the 10 heaviest pumpkins at its weigh-off. It broke the world record for top 10 average at 2,032 pounds.

The club is part of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, the governing organization which conducts more than 100 weigh-offs throughout the world each year.

Led by master of ceremonies and Parks Garden Center owner, Tim Parks, the event is part competition and part storytelling session. Parks, one of the founders of the club, fills time while pumpkins get set up on the scales by giving club history, pumpkin growing facts and asking growers about their pumpkins and their experience growing this year.

“You guys can work while I talk,” he said, jokingly, to the crew beside him arranging the pumpkins on the scale. Each pumpkin is moved to the scale by a forklift. Then, it is fitted with rigging to lift it up and lower it carefully onto the scale.

Jody Waychoff, of East Palestine, Ohio, waits for her giant pumpkin to be weighed at the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers Weigh-Off, Oct. 8, at Parks Garden Center, in Canfield, Ohio. (Rachel Wagoner photo)

By the numbers

More than $20,000 in prize money was awarded to the winners in various categories, including heaviest pumpkin, watermelon and tomato, longest gourd and widest sunflower head. The top pumpkin at the OVGPG Weigh-Off was 2,493 pounds, grown by Andy Wolf, of Little Valley, New York. He received the grant prize of $5,000 for the heaviest pumpkin.

A new Ohio record was set by Doug Kisamore, of Diamond, Ohio, with a pumpkin weighing 2,195.5 pounds. Glenn Rae, of Massillon, Ohio, won the “Howard Dill” award for the best looking pumpkin. Her pumpkin weighed in at 1,977.5 pounds.

At the peak of the growing season, between 30 to 55 days after pollination, a giant pumpkin can put on up to 50 pounds of weight a day.

“Once you see that, you’re hooked,” said Bill Hendricks, one of the club directors. “It’s an addiction.”

A wholesome addiction, though, he said. Chuck Greathouse, another club director, said his pumpkin growing friends are some of his best friends, even if he doesn’t get to see them that often. 

In addition to environmental factors, the other key to growing a giant pumpkin is the right genetics. The Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers sells seeds from its previous top pumpkins. The group also hosts free educational seminars for beginning and advanced growers over the winter, as well as a patch tour in the summer.

Hendricks said they’re also starting a mentoring program to match up experienced growers with newcomers to build on information learned in the seminars. The club has about 200 members. 

New hobby

Dano Koehler, Emily Baughman and Matthew Baughman stand with their giant pumpkin. The three are first time growers from Canton area. (Rachel Wagoner photo)

Growing a giant pumpkin was on Emily Baughman’s bucket list, but her husband, Matthew, and father Dano Koehler got into it, too. The Baughmans, of Canton, grew their pumpkins from seeds they bought from the Ohio Valley club at the Canfield Fair a couple years ago.

The one that ended up at the weigh-off was the third pumpkin from the second plant they grew this year. It was only about six weeks old, a relatively young pumpkin. In contrast, the heaviest pumpkins weighed were over 120 days old.

Their dream goal was to get a pumpkin weighing 500 pounds, but their more realistic goal was to hit 200 pounds. After the early losses of the plant and fruits, they were guessing their pumpkin weighed around 130 pounds. The family was pleasantly surprised to see it weighed in at 173 pounds. 

“They were so nice,” Emily Baughman said, of the club and other growers. The bucket list item has turned into a new hobby for the family.

The pumpkin lived a suburban life before coming to the weigh-off. It made the trip from the weigh-off in the back of their Audi. Emily Baughman said the folks from her homeowners association weren’t too happy about the giant plant until they saw what it was producing.

“The pumpkin won them over,” she said.

(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be reached at 724-201-1544 or rachel@farmanddairy.com)

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Rachel is Farm and Dairy's editor and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County, where she co-manages the family farm raising beef cattle and sheep with her husband and in-laws. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts. She can be reached at rachel@farmanddairy.com or 724-201-1544.

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