Halloween

Squashing The Record

TFK talks to the man who grew a record-breaking pumpkin 

October 18, 2016
RON WALLACE–AP

Richard and Catherine Wallace stand with the 2,261.5-pound pumpkin that Richard grew to set the North American giant-pumpkin record at the 2016 Frerichs Farm Pumpkin Weigh-Off.

When Richard Wallace grew his first giant pumpkin in 1989, it weighed 125 pounds. This year, at the Frerichs Farm Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Warren, Rhode Island, Wallace squashed the North American giant-pumpkin record. His 2,261.5-pound pumpkin beat the record that had been set by his son, Ron, at the same event last year. Ron’s pumpkin had topped the scales at 2,230 pounds. TFK talked to Richard Wallace about growing gigantic gourds.

TIME FOR KIDS:

Why are giant pumpkins special to you?

RICHARD WALLACE:

The growth cycle that they go through is amazing. When these pumpkins are at their prime, they can grow anywhere from 40 to 50 pounds a day. You can almost see them grow, and you can definitely see a difference in growth from one day to the next.

TFK:

What did it feel like to win this year’s competition?

WALLACE:

I’ve won two weigh-offs, but this was the first time I’ve [broken] any kind of record. It is very exciting when your pumpkin does more than it’s supposed to do. Based on the charts that we used, this pumpkin was supposed to weigh around 1,900 to 1,950 pounds. That is still a very big pumpkin. But 2,261—that’s what they call an over-the-chart pumpkin. In other words, it’s a lot heavier than the statistics would indicate.

TFK:

How do you grow a giant pumpkin?

WALLACE:

There’s quite a science behind it. You have to have nutrient-rich soil, but it starts with the seed that you select. You’ve also got to have cooperation from Mother Nature: a nice warm summer, nice cloud-free days, and not a lot of bad storms. My son and I grow together most of the time. We plant anywhere from four to six [pumpkin] plants each year. We grow each individual plant on 1,000 square feet [of land]. We start the seeds in the middle of April. We have our own seed stocks, but we also plant other people’s seeds if they’ve had good luck with them.

TFK:

What do you do with the winning pumpkin seeds?

WALLACE:

A lot of people want our seeds, and our seeds have been grown all over the world. There’s something I do [with the seeds] that I’m very proud of. Ten years ago I started a charity called the Orange Angels Foundation. I email the top growers in the world and ask them to donate seeds. I take those seeds and I put them in promotional seed packets to sell to other growers. I use the money that I make from those packages to buy coats and Christmas gifts for underprivileged kids in my hometown of West Warwick, Rhode Island.

TFK:

What will happen to your record-breaking pumpkin now that the competition has ended?

WALLACE:

The pumpkin will be taken to the New York Botanical Gardens. They’re going to carve it there and make something out of it.

TFK:

Do you celebrate Halloween?

WALLACE:

Oh, yes. We used to carve the pumpkins and put them out by the road. You have to use a chainsaw to carve these. The really big ones can be a foot thick. I usually carve just a couple of triangles for the eyes and some jagged teeth. I put a little electric light inside of them. They’re so big that if you put a candle in there you’d hardly see it.

TFK:

What’s the real secret for your success?

WALLACE:

You know what the secret is? Determination. If you’re determined and you want to do something, you can do it—but you have to put the work in.


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