Mitch Townsend is The Pumpkin King. He took up pumpkin growing as a hobby last year.
“I find them so fascinating and I really enjoy Halloween so I decided to grow them,” he said.
Last year he was unsuccessful. All the pumpkins were green as he started too late. This year he got an early start, bought as many types of seeds as he could, started doing research, made his own planters out of pallets and started germinating them in the house.
“My girlfriends was so angry with me. There were pumpkins everywhere,” he said with a grin.
He bought four different varieties of pumpkins. He got a white variety called “Caspers”, “Sugar Babies” which are tiny but which he says are perfect for making pies, “Jack-o-Lanterns” and “PVP Atlantic Giants.” The PVP Atlantic Giants are a pumpkin that grows anywhere from a 100 to 800 pounds depending on how you grow them. The biggest one he grew this year was 130 pounds and 79 inches around.
“I grow them in pure horse manure. No Miracle Gro. I like to go as organic as I can so I got organic seeds this year and grew them in organic soil and fed them with well water,” he said of his growing process.
“He was out there hand-picking weeds and digging thistles. It was a cool process,” said Julie.
They ended up moving all the pumpkin seedlings out to his shop, planted them and they took off. They ended up filling up about half an acre with all the plants.
“He put in a lot of hard manual labour,” his mom Julie Townsend said. “It was fun to watch him. And it was fun to see literally the fruits of his labour this fall,” she continued. In the last hard frost, the whole family was out in the patch for two hours with plastic trying to cover all the pumpkins.
“We were able to save the fruit but not the plant,” Julie said. They put six trailer loads of pumpkins in the barn.
Mitch’s girlfriend, Katina Rafter, dubbed him “The Pumpkin King” because she’s a die-hard Jack Skeleton fan. “She called me the Pumpkin King one day then I really fell in love with her,” Mitch said. The name stuck after that.
They put on a wrap-up pumpkin harvest event called “Pumpkin King Presents” and invited a handful of people to come out for a meal and give donations to take the pumpkins home. Proceeds from the event amounted just to over $1,200. All proceeds for this year and next year will go towards building the pumpkin patch.
“My dream is to take a portion of that farm and I want kids to experience a pumpkin patch and where they come from,” he said.
His vision is for kids to come out to the patch, get a wagon and some scissors to go out and pick their own pumpkin.
“Kids would love it. People would come from all over the place,” he said enthusiastically.
He also plans to show kids how to grow pumpkins.
“I don’t want them to lose that connection [with growing things],” he said.
For next year, he plans to put together tip sheets for growing pumpkins and facts about pumpkins he’s been collecting throughout this year’s process. He’s considering talking to his former high school H.J. Cody about potentially setting up a work experience program where students could volunteer at the patch. Ideas kept flowing to him as he started listing off the things he’ll need to purchase in the next few years to grow the patch. “Every dollar that I make off this for probably the next five years will go directly back into the pumpkin patch,” he said
“I admire that he took this on and he’s educated himself,” Julie said.
Mitch shared a few tidbits of information about pumpkins for the Thanksgiving holiday. The pumpkins can keep up to a year after being harvested. The length of the vine attached to the pumpkin also plays a factor in how long the fruit lasts. “The longer the vine is on the pumpkin, the longer it will last because that is their life line,” said Townsend.
He entered his largest pumpkin into the Heaviest Veggie Contest put on by Peavey Mart and is hoping he won pumpkin category for the contest. The contest closed on Sept. 30 and all the entries are are still being tallied.