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A food blog from NHPR news, digital, & programming staff, exploring food & food culture around the state & the New England region. On-air features air Thursdays on All Things Considered and Saturdays during Weekend Edition.

Giants Among Us: A Family Fights For Pumpkin Supremacy

Shaina Gates

The Pattersons, Matt and Erin, live off a quiet road in New Ipswich.

Dirt driveway on the left, beige house in the middle, pumpkins on the right.

“So this is it,” says Erin. “This is Lola.”

Lola is the prize of the patch this year. She sits heavy in the garden, bigger than you can get your arms around.

More yellow than orange, the pumpkin is hidden behind a partition of burlap.

“That is to keep people from seeing it from the road, cause I don’t want them to steal it,” says Matt. “I don’t want little punk ass kids trying to roll it down the hill and smash it.”

Neighborhood youth may pose a threat, but the bigger challenge pulls up in a gray pick-up.

“Taught him everything he knows,” says David Patterson, Matt’s father.

A retired high school biology teacher, David has 30 years of pumpkin growing know-how.

“I’ve grown the pumpkins all my life,” says David. “Since he was a little kid, even back to the other house. 

We’ve been in this house 25 or 26 years now, and he probably still remembers when he was 5 years old we were in the other house, I was growing big pumpkins. So, this is something he grew up with, and now that he has his own house, he thinks he can beat me.”

This is the third year of the family competition, and, to be clear, the Pattersons only compete with each other. Matt guesses Lola may top 400 pounds, far short of the world record of 2,009 pounds set last year in Rhode Island.

It takes good genes to get your fruit that big. The Pattersons bought seed packets from the same online specialty store based in Canada.

Credit David Patterson
David poses with his best effort. "This is the biggest one I've grown in 30 years."

“$15 for two seeds,” says Matt. “I think they came from a 1,000 pounder. They had good blood line.”

Back in April, David started about a dozen of them under a grow light. After the last frost, they were transplanted outdoors, where the teams took different paths.

Dad got his hands on some horse manure for his plot. Matt and Erin went with cow.

Dad stuck with organic pesticides. Matt and Erin: “No, no. Definitely not.”

Both watered consistently, and put tarps over the young giants to protect them from the mid-summer sun.

They also battled pests like the squash vine borer.

Now, with the nights getting cold, there’s not much left to do. David likes his chances.

“Mine is not as high as yours, but it is wide. I think it is denser. Yours looks kind of fluffy. Mine looks kind of meaty and dense,” says David.

Matt retorts, “Yours looks like a sugar pumpkin.”

“The scale will tell the story,” says David

Weigh-in will take place this weekend at a local scrap yard. Loser takes the winner out for a steak dinner, beer, and, yes, pumpkin pie.

Official results of the October 12th weigh-in:

Matt and Erin's labor of love, Lola, tipped the scales at 446 pounds, besting David Patterson's own personal-best 310-pound pumpkin. 


Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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