Every year, Bearss Groves farmers market creates a giant fall display in their pumpkin patch. This year, owner Barry Lawrance reached out to friends and landed a 989-pound pumpkin.
“I’ve always wanted a big pumpkin,” he said. “When you’re a kid, giant pumpkins are mind blowing.”
Lawrance said giant pumpkins are typically grown for contests at fall festivals. He can usually find 400 to 500 pound pumpkins in North Carolina. This year, many pumpkin festivals were cancelled because of the coronavirus. A chain of friends associated with pumpkin contests led him to a monster pumpkin in Michigan.
“A friend of a friend of a friend found us this one,” he said. “We bid on it in an auction and won it.”
The 989-pounder now rests on a pile of hay at the entrance of Bearss Groves Farmers Market in North Tampa. It is surrounded by dried corn stalks, skeletons and hundreds of smaller pumpkins.
“Around 2006 we started making our fall display larger,” he said. “We didn’t get a giant pumpkin last year, but we sure got one this year.”
Getting giant pumpkins isn’t an easy process. Previously, a 500-pound pumpkin was considered “giant.” Lawrance said farmers just keep trying to grow them bigger and bigger. Now reaching nearly 1,000-pounds and 8-inches thick, he said giant pumpkins are often mishandled or roughed up in shipment.
“Larger pumpkins are just harder to handle and get beat up,” he said. “It took a forklift to move it.”
So what happens to a giant pumpkin after Halloween? It becomes chicken food.
“They love it. It takes them about a week or two to go through it,” he said. “It’s funny to watch. They’ll make a fort, hang out inside it and eat their way from the inside out.”
Bearss Groves Farmers Market is located at 14316 Lake Magdalene Blvd., Tampa. No charge to visit. Guests are encouraged to photograph the giant pumpkin.