Monday, the 49th annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off took place, drawing farmers from around the country to Half Moon Bay, California.
The region, half an hour south of San Francisco, has been called “the pumpkin capital of the world,” due to the 3,000 tons of cucurbitaceae produced there every year.
One pumpkin to rule them all
In April, farmers start planting their special seeds for the yearly competition. Six months later, competitors haul their giant berries (pumpkins are technically berries) to the Fall Festival, where they are strapped to a forklift and measured on an industrial scale, according to NPR.
This year, about 30 contestants brought their chunkiest pumpkins, which averaged close to 1,000 pounds each, but one stood above the rest. According to ABC7, Travis Gienger, from Anoka, Minnesota, grew a pumpkin, named “Maverick,” that weighed in at 2,560 pounds — the largest recorded pumpkin ever grown in North America.
How big is the largest pumpkin ever grown?
According to Guinness World Records, the record for the heaviest pumpkin is held by Stefano Cutrupi from Tuscany, Italy. His beautiful monster weighed in at 2,702 pounds, 13.9 ounces at the 10th Campionato della Zuccone pumpkin festival in 2021.
Gienger, now a two-time world champ, is planning to carve a mural into his prized gourd, with the plan to win the world record for the largest jack-o’-lantern (a record he currently holds for his 2020 pumpkin, “Tiger King”).
The economics of a giant pumpkin
To grow a giant pumpkin, a farmer needs a super seed. World Class Gardening is selling a single seed from Gienger’s 2020 pumpkin for $175. Giant pumpkins typically carry about 800 seeds, which are then sold after the competition.
Next, farmers need a lot of space. Gienger’s prize-winning plant needed 2,000 square feet of space to grow, per ABC7 News. That is about the size of a pickleball court.
These monsters can gain 50 pounds a day at peak growth, so they need constant food and water. One competitor claimed she used 150 gallons of water a day to grow her competition pumpkin. Gienger told ABC7 News “I’ve been hitting it with fertilizer 14 times a day, watering quite a bit.”
For all that work, pumpkin growers are shooting for the world record, which would come with a payout of $30,000, per NPR.
Gienger did not take home that prize, but according to CBS News he won $9 per pound for “Maverick,” for a total of $23,040. The most beautiful pumpkin also brings in a small prize.