Utah Grower Downsizes Operation to Grow Super-Sized Pumpkins
Oct 28, 2019
When Jim Seamons returned to the family farm, he had no idea what the future would hold for the 200-acre operation near Lewiston, Utah.
“I’m a fourth generation farmer. My great-grandparents bought the farm and, after I went to college, I came back to help,” he said. “I ran a dairy operation with about 150 head of Holstein and Jersey cows. I also produced corn, alfalfa, hay and sometimes sorghum – all for feed. I sold off any extra I had, but most everything I raised, I used.”
Earlier this year, Seamons retired from dairy life and sold half of the farm, so he could devote all of his time to producing another, more unconventional, crop – giant pumpkins.
“I started with a two-acre plot that sat in the middle of 50 acres of corn. I thought growing pumpkins would just be a fun way to diversify the operation, but a lot has changed in the five years since my first crop,” he said. “In 2014, I grew my first giant and attended my first weigh off – it came in at 615 pounds. The next year, I joined the half-ton club with a pumpkin that weighed in at 1,016 pounds. Giant pumpkins continue to be a strong cash crop, and downsizing has given me an opportunity to produce something more profitable without the debt.”
The Zimmatic center pivot that used to work over his cornfield now helps Seamons produce a bumper crop of pumpkins.
“It does more than just water the ground,” he said. “I use the pivot to apply fertilizer, and I run it over the pumpkins to wash off the bugs.”
He said the market for giant pumpkins is diverse. He sells them commercially and said prized pumpkin seeds can go for more than $1,000 at auction.
“One business has a fall party and hires a professional carver who creates a 3D image on the pumpkin during the party,” he said. “Individual carvers also will purchase them – those people who like to go all out for their Halloween decorations. One person buys a dozen at a time – each averaging 400 – 600 pounds. We have people from 50 miles away come and walk through the pumpkins just to see them. They want to take pictures and, while they’re here, they will buy a field pumpkin, which we also grow.”
Every year, he sets aside one of his prized pumpkins for an annual regatta that draws more than 4,000 people.
“We cut it open, set it afloat in the lake and then the growers race each other,” he said. “We dress up and do it for fun.”
He also donates to other charity events – including one where the pumpkins are hoisted 175 feet up in the air with a crane and dropped – making a giant splat.
“It’s really been fun adding pumpkins to the farm,” he said. “I have a young family, so when I put a 400-pound pumpkin at the elementary schools, the kids love it. My kids get a kick out of the 800-pounders, especially when I load one in the truck and drive around with it. Everyone wants you to pull over to take pictures and ask questions.”