Ron Wallace and his father Richard, who both live in Greene, know pumpkins. In fact, they know giant pumpkins. Last year, Ron clinched the title of the heaviest pumpkin ever grown in North America. Coming in at a whopping 2,230 pounds, the giant pumpkin got Ron’s name in the record books. Unfortunately, the gourd he was hoping to break that record with this year began to rot, so he harvested it for seeds ahead of the Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Grower’s Annual Weigh-Off at Frerichs Farm in Warren last month.
Growing giant pumpkins has been a family tradition with Richard, according to Ron, being the first in New England to grow massive pumpkins in the 1980s.
“I’m hoping to be over 2,000,” Richard said the morning of the weigh-off. Growing one that big takes roughly 90 days, he adds.
“Four or five years ago I had one that weighed 1,623. I haven’t really done much growing the last few years.”
Then came the weigh-in. Richard’s pumpkin was up last, and Ron worked the mic as emcee for the day. The scale ticked down from five, Richard’s jaw dropped and the crowd went wild. At 2,261.5 pounds, Richard had himself the largest pumpkin ever grown in North America. “I think I can retire now,” Richard says with a laugh.
“You get absorbed by it.” Ron says. “To see a pumpkin put on 40 or 50 pounds a day is amazing.”
Ron has a few tips for wannabe pumpkin growers: “Obtain good quality seed,” he says, “Good seeds are not seeds you buy off the rack at the hardware store.” Other than that, Ron recommends that these pumpkin newbies start small and first learn to manage water irrigation and the technique of growing colossal pumpkins before expecting big results.
But what do you do after you weigh a record breaker? Ron says: “Well, one went off to New York City to be carved, one went on a few talk shows. A lot of them end up carved at the [Roger Williams Zoo] Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular. Some go to casinos, some people buy them to display. They go all over.” Of course, he also sells the seeds of his pumpkins to other growers and new pumpkin enthusiasts. “Seeds keep the hobby moving forward,” he says. Grow on, Wallaces, grow on.