My Pumpkin Is Bigger Than Yours
What is it about men that drives us to seek the fastest, the biggest, the best, of everything? Cars, houses, jewelry, men - whatever - we measure our success by them. We have to be number one with the longest, the thickest, the top dog. Somehow we think it proves our worth. So it is with farmers and pumpkins.
Every Autumn hundreds of thousands of people come to a sleepy little farm community outside of San Francisco for the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival. There's a pumpkin parade, pumpkin king and queen, pumpkin eating, carving and judging contests and everything to do with pumpkins - even a pumpkin lager from the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. The highlight of the event is viewing the results of the World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off that takes place the week before the Festival.
In 2007, there were more than 70 giant pumpkins entered in two divisions. The top ten entered in the open division each weighed more than 1000 pounds, the most in the 35 year history of the event. Four of the top five entries came in from out-of-state. The 2007 winner, grown by Thad Starr of Pleasant Hill, Oregon, weighed in at an unbelievable 1524 lbs. (that's ? of a ton!) earning him $9,144 and untold bragging rights. In pumpkin circles it is widely acknowledged that Thad has the big one!
Of the top three pumpkins entered in the (local) San Mateo County Division, Farmer John Muller had first and third place at 814 pounds and 563 pounds respectively. Farmer John is a colorful figure in his community. His neighbors know him as a sincere dirt-under-his-fingernails farmer who speaks emotionally and passionately about his farm as a strictly agricultural family destination. Farmer John now admits he's also an official Pumpkin Kook. Does size really matter? It does in pumpkins.
Encouraged by his 2007 success, this year he started 20 plants, of which 4 or 5 became the finalists. Those are the plants he coddled and pampered all season. With luck, they'll produce another giant or two for this year's world-class competition. While most growers are secretive about their techniques, Farmer John did say the cool nights on the coast are not ideal for pumpkin growing, so he puts his pumpkins to bed covered with blankets. On really cold nights he uses electric blankets! Now that's some pampered pumpkins! Businessman, entrepreneur, raconteur, husband and steward of the land, in Half Moon Bay, Farmer John is Mr. Pumpkin.
The 2008 Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival is held on October 18th & 19th. It is the 38th annual event featuring a parade, carving contests and demonstrations, pie eating contest, and a myriad of prizes for the best pumpkins. I hope you can get to it this Autumn, but, West Coast or whereever, seek out your local farmer and buy his pumpkins in the field. Enjoy the fresh air, sunshine and open space - make a day of it! Maybe get some fresh veggies while you're at it. And be sure to pick out the largest pumpkin you can find. Then you can truly say "My pumpkin is bigger than yours!"