MARKESAN — A Wisconsin man grew the heaviest pumpkin in the country weighing 2,520 pounds. It's the second heaviest in the world for 2021. However, it's not going down in any record books and the grower isn't winning any prizes. He was disqualified.
Mike Schmit nearly set a record for heaviest pumpkin in Wisconsin and would have been on the all-time list for pumpkins grown in the United States. However, his pumpkin cracked. That made him ineligible for any competitions this year, like the 2021 Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in California. It pays $9/pound to the winner. That means he could have won $22,680. That's one expensive crack.
“It happens. There’s no crying in pumpkin growing," Schmit said.
He grew this gargantuan gourd in Markesan, Wisconsin which is just about 30 miles west of Fond du Lac.
Surprisingly, Schmit isn't too bummed. He knows that these types of things can happen. In fact, sometimes pumpkins will crack on the way to competitions.
“I know I can do it again, so we just gotta look forward to the future," he said.
Schmit started growing giant pumpkins in 2016. In that short time, he won three competitions. This was the first time he ever eclipsed the 2,500 pound mark.
Growing giant pumpkins isn't the most common hobby, but Schmit is fascinated by it.
“Some people say we’re crazy, but you know, we’re just people who like to have a little fun out in the dirt.”
Plus, his pumpkins get lots of looks when he is transporting them. Kids press their face up against car windows and people pull up next to him to take photos.
“Pumpkins are like ice cream, everyone loves them.”
While he isn't too disappointed that the pumpkin cracked, he did acknowledge it's tough to see all that hard work not pay off. It takes about 10 hours a week to take care of one pumpkin. Schmit grew three giant gourds, which meant he was spending about 30 hours per week on watering and maintaining his pumpkins. All three shared similar fates.
At its peak, this nearly record setting pumpkin grew 53 pounds a day and needed about 150 gallons of water per day.
The seeds he uses aren't just standard seeds you get from your ordinary pumpkin patch. They are specifically designed to grow large. In fact, genetics are closely monitored just like they are in raising cattle. Traditionally, the ultimate fate of a giant pumpkin is to be blown up, dropped from a crane, or even used as a jack-o-lantern. However, given the importance of genetics, Schmit is keeping his pumpkin to collect the seeds from it in hopes that it yields another record setter.
As for common misconceptions about growing pumpkins, Schmit said there are two: "A lot of times they ask if it’s real. Yes, it’s real. And then second biggest one is, do you feed it milk. I don’t know. I think it's a wives tale from Little House on the Prairie."
Schmit is hoping that the great pumpkin gods will look on him more favorably next year and he can grow a gourd to a similar weight.