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This Man Grows Pumpkins That Weigh a TON

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
November 1, 2022 3:01 am

This Man Grows Pumpkins That Weigh a TON

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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November 1, 2022 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, we hear how in 2017, Rhode Islander, Joe Jutras, broke the record for the largest giant green squash ever grown coming in at 2118lbs. Here he shares all that goes into growing these giant fruits.

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Find your cheer on the Starbucks app today. This is Lee Habeeb and this is Our American Stories and you're listening to our Halloween special. And what's more associated with Halloween than pumpkins? Today we have the story of competitive pumpkin grower, Joe Jutras. Joe is a retired cabinet maker from Rhode Island. Since his retirement, he has dedicated most of his time to growing giant fruits and vegetables. In 2017, he broke the record for the largest green squash ever grown, coming in at 2118 pounds.

Here's Joe with his story. I've been growing giant vegetables now for the last 25 years. I got started years ago just by accident. I started growing vegetables in my backyard. I threw in a giant pumpkin seed.

I grew it to 124 pounds and from then on I was hooked. A couple years later I got hooked up with a gentleman here in Rhode Island. His name is John Castellucci. He's like the godfather of pumpkin growing here in New England.

He started in the early 90s. He had great success, real gentlemen, helped anybody that wanted to learn how to grow pumpkins. So my friend Steve Sperry and I, we spent a lot of time in his house just drinking some beers and learning how to grow pumpkins.

And from then on we just got hooked and enjoyed growing, met people from all over the world. This hobby attracts people from all strains of life, from cabinet makers to scientists. There seems to be an addictive quality to growing these giant fruits and vegetables. It's remarkable how many people you meet that all have the same interest of growing fruit and just enjoy being outside growing these large vegetables. It's been one of the best parts.

I know my wife really enjoys it. We have get-togethers, we have cruises that we go on with pumpkin people. It's very competitive but then again it's such a long season. We start these fruit in the beginning of April and we're not finished a lot of these layoffs until October. So you know you've got a fruit on the hook for like 100, 110, 120 days. That's a long time to have a fruit being healthy and a lot of things can happen, a lot of weather related problems you can run into and bugs and diseases and it takes a lot to get a pumpkin to the finish line.

So when we go to these layoffs we're all happy for each other just to see everybody getting a fruit there and a lot of people grow multiple fruit just so that you do have a fruit at the way of time hopefully. To get the full advantage of your growing season you want to try to get these in probably about three or four weeks before your last frost which means you have to grow them in a greenhouse. We use heating cables, the wall of the soil. We use lights, we use like a small greenhouse. My greenhouses are like a five by seven. After we've got the pumpkin going I'd say we've grown them in that greenhouse for probably four or five weeks.

It's probably about the first week of May by the time we take it out here in Rhode Island and the race is on. We're growing these plants. You're trying to set this fruit out on the main vine probably 10 to 12 feet at least preferably 14 or 16 feet is even better. You've got probably 10 side vines on either side of the fruit and your plant's probably 500 square feet 400 square feet at pollination time and by that time your fruit at 20 days old is really starting to put on the weight. You could be putting anything on like maybe 30 pounds a day at 20 days old and by 25 days old you could be putting 30 pounds on.

By 40 days you could be putting 40 or 50 pounds on if you know you really got one hooked up. I was fortunate enough to in 2006 grow a world record long board. Actually the very first time I tried I grew a world record and the year after that 2007 had started a new garden. I grew the world record pumpkins and ever since then I was trying to grow the world's largest green squash.

It's a different it's similar to a pumpkin but the color is different just a little different in growing them. The earlier ones back in 2007-2008 they were harder to grow. I think what happened the gene pool was so closely related that they had a lot of problems with pollinations and there weren't as many people growing them. There's like nine times more people growing giant pumpkins than there are squash. This hobby of giant fruit growing turns out to be quite the science but a little over the last decade some people wanted to make their chances of growing a giant green squash a little higher. And after a few years of cross breeding squashes and pumpkins there are a lot more people growing giant green squash. Part of the reason this type of fruit is so difficult to grow is that pumpkins and the color orange are actually dominant.

So the growers will take the seeds from the squash pumpkin hybrid and plant multiple seeds in hopes to grow a green squash in which they have a one in four chance of getting one. These giant fruits that are being grown have gone through lots of breeding and pollinating seasons in order to become these world record-breaking 2,000 pound monster produce. Before these large fruits are brought to scale the growers try to estimate just how much they will weigh. We have a way of measuring these fruits so we have an idea how heavy they are. They call the OTT it's over the top measurement where you take a circumference measurement side to side measurement front to back measurement you add them all up and you know we may come up to 480 500 inches and you put that measurement up against a chart and the chart is changing all the time depending on how heavy the pumpkins get. And it'll give you an estimate of how much your pumpkins should weigh by the cubic inches of your pumpkin. So you have an idea how many pounds is growing pretty exciting when you can gain 300 pounds a week to 180 pounds a week. And you've been listening to Joe Jutras telling the story about his retirement hobby which has grown into a pretty serious hobby and a world record-breaking hobby and my goodness what it takes to grow one of these monsters how complex it is all the exigencies of surviving through a 120-day growth season and that's a long time to get from beginning to end.

As he put it, it takes a lot to get a pumpkin that size to the finish line. When we come back more of Joe Jutras' story the giant pumpkin and squash grower from Rhode Island here on Our American Stories. Folks if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country please make a donation. A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to Our American now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.

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To learn more visit What up? It's Dromos. You may know me from the recap on LATV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday. We'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture, and everything in between from someone who's never quite fitting.

Listen to Life as a Gringo on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. And we continue with our American stories and our Halloween special. We've been listening to Joe Jutras, a giant pumpkin grower who holds the world record for growing the largest green squash. He's been sharing with us all that goes into growing these giant fruits and vegetables.

Let's return to Joe. You can actually see that pumpkin growing especially at the beginning between day 20 to day 40. It changes the shape daily and triples, quadruples in size in that amount of time. Once they start getting bigger you know every inch is like 10 11 12 pounds so they don't change as much. Like anybody else they get more more cracks and age spots and just about and they seem to gain more weight as they get older too.

Just like anybody else you know they start packing out the weight. Just very rewarding to see a fruit grow and get it to the scale and you know watch other people have their pumpkin come to the scale and they're thinking it's you know say thousand pounds and it ends up being 1,150 pounds. Well they they they grew quite a bit over the scale you know they're double digit heavy so that's great.

They adjust this chart all the time so that they're either five percent over or five percent below trying to be as accurate as they can. In Joe Jutras first attempt to grow his world record-breaking green squash he grew 12 plants and out of the 12 only one was green and it grew to a mere 1,252 pounds. But in 2017 when he tried again with a different seed it brought him his world record-breaking green squash of 2,118 pounds. The year I grew the world record squash you know you have a very good idea you've got a good one growing and that same year Scott Holbert grew that same 1844 seed so we both had one going and you know your friends you talk with one another and say gee how you doing Scott I'm doing you know close to 1,900 pounds you're trying to do the math all right mine's mine's close to 2,000 pounds. I think I taped out measuring like 2,009 pounds so if he's taping 1,900 I go light he goes heavy you know either one of us could win well at the end of it I went five percent heavy he went five percent light so that's a big difference. In 2017 after a long season of hard work growing these giant produce the weigh-in day arrived and getting these fruits to weigh in is quite the process and takes a team effort. It's called Fat Friday the day before our way off it was usually on a Saturday we help help each other out there's four or five guys get together and we have a tripod with a harness on that goes around the bottom of the pumpkin you have a chain fall and you're able to lift the pumpkin up by this harness from the tripod without actually having to lift any weight whatsoever and these fruit now are so big that you have to have a trailer because they won't fit in the back of a pickup truck any longer so we pick it up in the air we push the trailer underneath we let it down hook it up to the truck and we pull it out now we we bring it to the the farm we have this way off in Warren Rhode Island Ferishes Farm we set up things for the following day we usually wait till the end we weigh the the biggest ones last by the measurement go by how it goes and just that day I won the world record I was fortunate I had the biggest fruit there and it ended up weighing the heaviest I was very surprised that it went five percent heavy because you know I was just hoping for something that could beat 1844 which was the world record so to really come in 2118 it was a dream come true that's for sure to say the least it's going to be a hard record to beat because that was uh that was a very uh very large fruit even nowadays that at the time that was the 13th largest fruit ever grown pumpkins and squash now since then there's probably about another 30 or 40 ones that are as big or bigger than that but there's not really any green squash that have come close to that other than my 1935 there's no doubt seeing these giant pumpkins or squash on the ground guns or squash on the road would be a sight to see well the funny part of this is when you're going down the road because some some of these way offs we go to are in upstate connecticut in there the new york line and you're on 95 and you've got people taking pictures and hanging out the windows and putting their thumbs up and almost running your off the road it's uh that's the scary part is when you got people they're not watching where they're going and they you know they're really excited and they're taking pictures and they're beeping their horns and everyone enjoys a large pumpkin going down the road some people probably have never seen it before and they're really in awe when they do see it so that's the part that's uh exciting and you get to the way off and you have families and kids that look at it and it's like a christmas tree a big pumpkin you know it's uh it's something everybody enjoys looking at there's a pumpkin organization called the gpc and they're something like a government of the pumpkin growers the gpc is the great pumpkin commonwealth the organization that makes sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to growing and measuring these giant fruits and vegetables so it's very important that we do have a gpc to control the pumpkin community and that everybody is judged fairly and we have a yearly convention that's put on the by the gpc and that's a good time where everyone gets together there's usually about two or three hundred people from all over the world they give out awards and uh usually the growers who grow the larger squash or fruit or vegetables depending on what it is they do a powerpoint presentation and everyone learns from you know what the newest strategies were how they did it and what not to do what to do uh it's just as important as what to do is what not to do uh what you can learn from other people's mistakes you certainly don't want to make them all yourself the best thing about this hobby is the friends that you meet i think it's you know i enjoy fishing too and i've got a bunch of fishing buddies i really enjoy fishing where you know can't wait to talk about the fish we caught and how to catch them and what to use it's basically the same thing when you're growing giant pumpkins what are you using the fertilizer we're using the spray we're using for fungicides where you think of this seed what you think of that seed what are you growing next year how'd you do it it's just really a lot of friendship too it's not only uh the work of growing them it's people you meet and the friends here you uh acquire over the years just uh just so much fun joe jutras is now in his 60s and he has no intention of stopping his hobby anytime soon you know god willing if i'm still fit and this this sport really uh really keeps you moving you know you're out there first thing crack of dawn working on these plants stretching and moving and up and down and it's quite a bit of physical work to it i'd like to do it as long as i can i i know my buddy eddie who i'm helping now he's 83 and he likes growing these fruit as much as anybody i know and he just can't wait to get up in the morning to get out there and work on him granted that you know at 83 you're not able to do it as well as you can at 40 or 50 or 60 but uh he still still does a heck of a job at it i know it's not for everybody it's quite a bit of work not everybody has to take it quite as serious as a competitive pumpkin grower just to grow one in your backyard to have a two or three hundred pounder on your step is a great achievement over the summer and it's very attainable now with the seeds we have just about everybody has room for a 10 by 15 foot garden and you could easily grow two three 500 pound fruit without a heck of a lot of work i think and a great job as always by faith and robbie telling the story of joe jutras and my goodness what a passion he has and my goodness how many of us have a world record in anything and if it's the squash world record so be it 2118 pounds done in 2017 and joe's pride and joy but still out there competing and wanting to win and most importantly sharing his hobby with pals and that's what it really is all about we all have those hobbies and what really brings us together is more than the passion for the thing but the people we meet and the friendships we make joe jutras's story here on our american story do you want to win two tickets to the fifa world cup 2022 in guitar frito lay is giving you the chance to make history by joining their pass the ball challenge explore the ever-growing community on the golden world soccer ball then pass the ball to fellow fans to score additional entries scan the qr code on specially marked bags of lays cheetos or doritos or visit frito lay no purchase necessary open to legal resonance of 50 usdc 18 plus grand prize entry deadline 11 10 22 entries received after 11 10 22 are only eligible for secondary prizes sea rules at frito lay when the world gets in the way of your music try the new bose quiet comfort earbuds too next gen earbuds uniquely tuned to the shape of your ears they use exclusive bose technology that personalizes the audio performance to fit you delivering the world's best noise cancellation and powerfully immersive sound so you can hear and feel every detail of the music 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Whisper: small.en / 2022-11-07 13:47:01 / 2022-11-07 13:51:52 / 5

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