DELAFIELD — Year after year, dozens of people from around Wisconsin compete to grow the biggest pumpkin in the state and country. Year after year, state records are shattered as these gigantic gourds grow larger than before. This growing season was no different. A new Wisconsin state record was set that was just shy of the new national record set this year too.
Tom Montsma grew a 2,360-pound pumpkin in the backyard of his Brandon home.
“This is my biggest pumpkin I’ve grown here in the last nine years I think I’ve been growing these things," Montsma said.
Surprisingly, that was only good enough for 2nd place in Wisconsin. Brian Mathowetz from Eau Claire grew a 2,420-pound pumpkin to set a new state title.
The giant gourd is on display in the Lake Country Health Center parking lot in Delafield. The public is encouraged to visit.
State records continue to be broken year after year. Ten years ago, it was impressive just to break the 2,000-pound mark. Now, that barely gets you on the podium at the biggest weigh-offs. The average weight of the pumpkins at Montsma's weighoff in Stillwater, Minn., was 2,136 pounds.
“Genetics has come a long way. But we’re learning so much on how we grow these things, and how we can feed them. How we can get our soil just to the best balance," Montsma said.
Last year he grew a 2,046-pound pumpkin which for a short period was the largest one in the state until it was beaten by Derek Sippel and his 2,147.6-pound pumpkin.
None of the feats would be possible without the help of the entire pumpkin-growing community. Montsma is part of the Wisconsin Giant Pumpkin Growers organization. They share tips and tricks as well as swap seeds.
In 2022, Monstma got a seed from Mike Schmidt who grew what would have been the state record pumpkin in 2021 at 2,520 pounds. Unfortunately, the gourd cracked and disqualified it from competition.
These giant pumpkins grow at an astonishing rate. At the peak of the growing season, they are gaining 50 pounds every single day. It took just about 20 days for Montsma's gourd to go from roughly 400 pounds to 1,400 pounds.
"I mean you really got to have your soil pH level in a sweet spot where your nutrients can be more available to the plant. If your pH is too high or too low, then some of your nutrients in your soil aren’t available to the plant," Montsma said.
Despite the impressive size of Montsma's pumpkin, that's not what he is most proud of.
"Probably that it's orange. You can get gigantic pumpkins, but they can be kind of a beige or a cream color. But it's orange. It's large, and it's a crowd-pleaser," he said.
People love to stop and take pictures next to it. Brandon Meye, who is a doctor at Lake Country Health Center, said visitors park in his parking lot or in the church lot across the street all throughout the day.
"Tom's my father-in-law and I’ve seen him progress in his giant pumpkin-growing stages. So each year they’ve gotten bigger and bigger, so this one is really impressive," Meye said.
Contrary to the many people who make witty comments as they see these big pumpkins, you're not going to make tons of pies with them. Giant pumpkins aren't that tasty.
Now that 2,000-pound pumpkins have become more of the norm, growers have their eyes set on a new target, 3,000 pounds. Tom said he hopes to be the first one to reach that goal.
“I’m progressing every year so (it's up to) Mother Nature and God’s got control over that, so whatever happens happens."
The world record for the largest pumpkin in the world was set this year by a Minnesotan farmer. It weighs 2,749 pounds.