MARKESAN, Wisc. — A Wisconsin man grew the heaviest pumpkin in the country, weighing 2,520 pounds. It marked the second-heaviest pumpkin in the world grown in 2021.
Unfortunately, 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.
The World Championship pays $9/pound to the winner, meaning Schmit could have won $22,680.
That's one expensive crack.
"It happens. There's no crying in pumpkin growing," Schmit said.
Schmit grew his gargantuan gourd in Markesan, Wisconsin, located 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 has won three competitions. This year marked 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," he said.
Plus, his pumpkins get lots of looks when he is transporting them. Kids press their faces up against car windows, and people pull up next to him to take photos.
"Pumpkins are like ice cream; everyone loves them," Schmit said.
While he isn't too disappointed that the pumpkin cracked, Schmit 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 watering and maintaining his pumpkins.
All three shared similar fates.
At its peak, the nearly-record-setting pumpkin grew 53 pounds a day and needed about 150 gallons of water per day.
The seeds Schmit uses aren't just the standard seeds from an ordinary pumpkin patch — they are specifically designed to grow large. In fact, the seed genetics are closely monitored, just like 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 will keep his pumpkin to collect the seeds from it in hopes that it yields another record-setter.
As for common misconceptions about growing giant 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?'" Schmit said. "I don't know. I think it's a wives tale from 'Little House on the Prairie.'"
Schmit hopes that the great pumpkin gods will look on him more favorably next year, and he can grow a gourd to a similar weight.
This story was originally published by James Groh on Scripps station TMJ4 in Milwaukee.