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This Man Grows Pumpkins That Weigh a TON

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
April 10, 2023 3:01 am

This Man Grows Pumpkins That Weigh a TON

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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April 10, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, 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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They're some of our favorites. And today, we have a story from Rhode Islander Joe Jutras. Joe is a retired cabinet maker and since his retirement, he has dedicated most of his time to growing giant fruit and vegetable. In 2017, he broke the record for the largest green squash ever grown, coming in at 2,118 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 gentleman, helped anybody that wanted to learn how to grow pumpkins. So my friend Steve Sferry 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 weigh-offs until October. So 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.

A lot of things can happen, a lot of weather-related problems you can run into and bugs and diseases. It takes a lot to get a pumpkin to the finish line. So when we go to these weigh-offs, we're all happy for each other just to see everybody getting a fruit there.

A lot of people grow multiple fruit just so that you do have a fruit at the weigh-off 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 to warm up 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 really got one hooked up. I was fortunate enough to, in 2006, grow a world record longboard. Actually, the very first time I tried, I grew a world record.

And the year after that, 2007, I 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 pollination. 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 crossbreeding 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 may come up to 480, 500 inches and you put that measurement up against the 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, 280 pounds a week. And you've been listening to Joe Jutros 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 Jutros' 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 now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.

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Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. And we continue with our American stories and with Joe Jutros, 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 on 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 a thousand pounds and it ends up being eleven hundred and fifty pounds. Well, 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 Jutres 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 one thousand two hundred fifty two pounds. But in 2017, when he tried again with a different seed, it brought him his world record breaking green squash of two thousand one hundred and eighteen 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 Holbitt 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 are you doing, Scott? I'm doing, you know, close to nineteen hundred pounds. You're trying to do the math.

All right. Mine's close to two thousand pounds. I think I taped out measuring like two thousand and nine pounds. So if he's taping nineteen hundred, 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 weigh off is usually on a Saturday. We help each other out. There's four or five guys that get together and we have a tripod with a harness 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. We bring it to the farm. We have this weigh off in Warren, Rhode Island, Ferris cheese farm. We set up things for the following day.

We usually wait till the end. We weigh the biggest ones last by the measurement 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 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 a very large fruit, even nowadays. 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 road would be a sight to see. Well, the funny part of this is when you're going down the road, because some of these layoffs we go to are in upstate Connecticut near the New York line and you're on 95. You've got people taking pictures and hanging out the windows and putting their thumbs up and almost running you off the road. That's the scary part is when you've got people who are not watching where they're going and they're really excited and taking pictures and beeping their horns. 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. That's the part that's exciting and you get to the way off and you have families and kids that look at it. It's like a Christmas tree, a big pumpkin.

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 by the GPC and that's a good time where everyone gets together. There's usually about 200-300 people from all over the world.

They give out awards and 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 what the newest strategies were, how they did it, what not to do, what to do. It's just as important as what to do as what not to do.

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. I enjoy fishing too and I've got a bunch of fishing buddies, I really enjoy fishing.

I 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 to fertilize? What are you using to spray?

What are you using to fungicides? What do you think of this seed? What do you think of that seed? What are you growing next year?

How did you do it? It's just really a lot of friendship too. It's not only the work of growing them, it's people you meet and the friends you acquire over the years.

It's just so much fun. Joe Jutres is now in his 60s, and he has no intention of stopping his hobby anytime soon. God willing, if I'm still fit, and this sport really keeps you moving. You're out there, first thing crack of dawn, working on these plants, stretching and moving and up and down. There's quite a bit of physical work to it.

I'd like to do it as long as I can. I know my buddy Eddie, who I'm helping now, he's 83, and he likes growing these fruits as much as anybody I know. He just can't wait to get up in the morning to get out there and work on them.

Granted, at 83, you're not able to do it as well as you can at 40 or 50 or 60, but he 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 200 or 300 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 200, 300, 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. He hit 2,118 pounds done in 2017, and Joe's pride and joy is 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 Stories. Chipotle's new Chicken Al Pastor is where fire meets flavor. Starting with chicken fresh off the grill, combined into a rich marinade of seared Merida peppers and ground achiote, balanced with a splash of pineapple for the right amount of heat, and finished with fresh lime and hand-cut cilantro. Chipotle's new Chicken Al Pastor is fire on every level, only available for a limited time. Order now in the app for pickup or delivery.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-10 04:33:55 / 2023-04-10 04:42:35 / 9

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