Family grows giant pumpkins for Farm Bureau

HILLMAN — The Johnson children of Moltke took first, second and third place during the annual pumpkin growing contest held by Presque Isle County Farm Bureau earlier this month.

The bureau held the contest during its 73rd annual meeting at Brush Creek Mill in Hillman.

According to a press release, the pumpkin contest is an annual tradition of the organization intended to encourage young people’s interest in agriculture. Families received seeds of Atlantic giant pumpkins this spring at Small Animal Day, hosted by Sunrise Gardens and Grains.

According to organizers first place went to Bjorn Johnson who grew a 202 pound pumpkin. Second place was his sister, Fenlynn Johnson whose pumpkin weighed 198 pounds. Third was their sister Brook Johnson whose pumpkin grew to 181 pounds. The three are the children of Nick and Abby Johnson who have a farm in Moltke.

Abby Johnson said the experience of growing Atlantic giants was a fun one for the family.

“It’s definitely a pumpkin variety that is disposed to being very large and hand selected for being giant,” she said. “The kids got the seeds in the spring and we started them in the house and then planted them.”

She said the plants were put in an area of their farm where there are two steers and the plants had plenty of nutrients to feed from and become large. However, the plants were not just left to grow, Johnson said a soil analysis was conducted to determine the pH of the soil.

“There was a lot of cattle manure, and there is a lot of nutrients available, but it’s important to think about soil chemistry, so we took some soil samples and tested them for pH,” she said.

Lime was added to the soil to even out the chemistry and the children worked on pollinating the pumpkin plans and removing the male flowers. Johnson said it was important for her to teach her children about growing the plants because that was one of the aims for the bureau.

“We ended up with eight plants that grew out of 12 seeds,” she said.

The children picked plants that were theirs and two pumpkins were allowed to grow on each plant. Much of the research for growing Atlantic giants came from doing Internet searches, Johnson said.

The resulting giant pumpkins not only won the children the annual contest, but also gave them a sense of pride, Johnson said. She said the pumpkins will be fed to their farm animals, though they will save seeds for themselves and neighbors and use some of the pumpkin to make pies.

“The children have been pretty excited about this and they have been watching (the pumpkins) all summer,” she said.

Jason Ogden can be reached via email at jogden@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Jason on Twitter @jo_alpenanews.