CLEARFIELD – Students at the St. Francis School, Clearfield, had a fall treat Oct. 19, when Vanessa Snyder visited with an 807.5-pound pumpkin.
Kindergarteners were comparing a home-grown pumpkin – of normal size – to a pumpkin available for purchase at Wal-Mart.
Vanessa learned about the classroom activity and brought the giant pumpkin for the students to see.
Her husband, Kevin, has grown giants from Atlantic Giant Pumpkin Seeds. He grew this 800-pounder with a seed he picked out of one of his past giants.
For him, it’s a time-consuming process to grow desired giant pumpkins. He must continually tend to the weeds and also water them properly.
In June and July, work becomes most intensive because Kevin must pollinate the pumpkins’ flowers himself. He must take pollen from the male flower and place it in the female flower.
Pollination should take place by the Fourth of July to enhance genetics and control over what the pumpkins will look like.
Students were curious about how many seeds are inside these giant pumpkins. Vanessa told them that it varies greatly, and they can have as few as 10 seeds or as many as 1,000.
The children were excited that Vanessa brought giant pumpkin seeds for each of them. She explained how to germinate the seeds indoors and when to plant them outdoors next spring.
It was pointed out that they may not get a pumpkin as large as the couple’s the first time; however, they will grow a very large one.
Students also wanted to know how they got the pumpkin onto their pick-up truck.
Vanessa, Kevin and their friends use a lifting sling, which is positioned around the pumpkin and attached to forks of a skid steer.
Once secured, the pumpkin is lifted up and placed on a pallet. Once the pumpkin is loaded safely onto the pallet, it’s picked up again by the skid steer and loaded into the bed of the truck.
If a pumpkin is over 1,200 pounds, they must use a chain hoist method to load it instead of the skid steer, because that’s the maximum weight. Students were told that it can be a night-long process.
A student asked if you could eat the pumpkin or if “it was just for looks.” The meat is used for making pumpkin pies, while the seeds are good for eating.
Vanessa told the students to put aluminum foil on a baking tray, cover it with a layer of pumpkin seeds and bake them at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
She said they can season them per their wishes to make them salty, sweet or with fall spices such as cinnamon.
Students were encouraged to make themselves a snack after carving their pumpkins this fall.
Afterward students were tasked with guessing the pumpkin’s weight from between 100 and one million pounds. They also asked the couple about the weight of their largest pumpkin ever.
Kevin’s largest and heaviest pumpkin weighed 1,500 pounds, which was grown in 2016. He has been growing giant pumpkins for 12 years at his father’s farm, The Snyder Farm in Grampian.
For him, it looked like fun and it posed a challenge to get the biggest and “prettiest” pumpkin. They have sold pumpkins to Disney World, Longwood Gardens and various other places around the world.
The pumpkin, which the St. Francis students saw, was sold to a car dealership – “Billy the Kid Kelly” – located in Brookville.
The Snyder’s travel all over Pennsylvania for pumpkin weigh-offs, with the heaviest being declared winner. There’s also the “Howard Dill Award” for the “prettiest” pumpkin.
It was noted that Kevin often wins the prettiest pumpkin awards because he meticulously controls how they will look through the pollination process.