Elmwood resident springs a 642-pound pumpkin
ELMWOOD -- Rick Stohr was seeking a stress reliever, something he could do when his day as a salesman is done.
The Elmwood native, thanks to friends and family, found growing pumpkins, especially big ones, to his liking.
"I grew up on a farm and the trials and tribulations of farming are the same things you experience with pumpkins," he said.
It's safe to say the 2008 season was a good one for Stohr in his three years of competitively growing pumpkins.
Stohr grew his biggest pumpkin ever, a 642-pounder named "Big Al" (his previous high was 606). He also grew a 533-pound pumpkin and a 492-pound green squash. His efforts paid off, as the squash was named the Heaviest Green Squash at the recent St. Croix Growers Association in Stillwater, Minn., at the end of September (Stohr added that, according to www.bigpumpkin.com, which keeps track of everything pumpkin-related, his squash came in at No. 49 all-time for weight).
Stohr's interest in pumpkin growing sprung thanks to fellow pumpkin grower Matt Marose. Marose was showing his pumpkins at Citizens State Bank in Elmwood, where Stohr's wife Renae saw them. The two were introduced and the rest is history.
"He's kept me on task," he said. "He's forgotten more about pumpkin growing than I will ever know."
Stohr offered a few tips on how to grow pumpkins:
--Start the growing season about the middle of April. Start it out by the windowsill, then move it to a mini-dome in the garden for about a month, finally give it room in the garden to grow. "To get a big pumpkin, the rule of thumb is to give it about 250 square feet of growing area," Stohr said.
--Just like any seed, pumpkins need rain, and lots of it. "A lot of watering and irrigation," Stohr explained. However, it does come at a price. "Too much rain will cause them to explode," he said. "Slow and steady is the key."
--Heat isn't good. "The perfect pumpkin growing weather is between 75 and 85 degrees," Stohr said. He added it isn't uncommon for a pumpkin to grow about 30 pounds a day between July and August, with that likely occurring at night.
--However, while Mother Nature can help the cause, she can also put a dent in it. Two years ago, a storm including baseball-sized hail wiped out most of his crop. Therefore, Stohr said, when they know hail is coming, they cover the pumpkins up. It also doesn't matter the time of the day, as the pair has said they've done that at 3 a.m.
Since Rick and Renae live within the Village of Elmwood, their growing space couldn't be done there. Rick knew of one place that could work: his father Ed's farm, located on CTH CC. "If it wasn't for him, none of this would be possible," Rick said. As a tribute to his father, Rick named his collections of pumpkins "Eddie's Pumpkin Patch."
"Everyone knows Ed Stohr's farm," Rick explained. "It was only natural to name it Eddie's Pumpkin Patch." He added business has been good this year.
A likely contributing factor to that has been, since the Stillwater event, Rick has kept his two large pumpkins and a squash at the farm.
"It's a good conversation piece," Rick said. "The nicest part is to see people's look on their faces. They're always smiling."
Rick said that, come Halloween night, the big pumpkins are like going to be carved and etched into some form of design that will sit out in front of their home.
"The trick-or-treaters love the pumpkin etching," he said.
After that, some of the seeds will be saved for next year's collection. The 533-pound pumpkin came from his 606-pound pumpkin, while "Big Al" came from a pumpkin that Renae's son Mitchell had.
All this with the ultimate goal in mind.
"I want a 1,000 pound pumpkin next year," Rick said.