Napa farmer wins Northern California giant pumpkin contest

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

ELK GROVE, Calif. -- A Napa farmer won a Northern California contest with a record-setting 1,806-pound pumpkin that judges nicknamed "The Flying Saucer" because of its wide and flat shape.

Grower Tim Mathison was one of about 50 big pumpkin farmers to haul their heaviest crops to the annual weigh-in at the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin & Harvest Festival, the Sacramento Bee reported Sunday.

Most of the pumpkins entered in Saturday's contest were grown in about 90 days, sometimes growing as fast as 30 pounds per day, said Brian Myers, chairman of the California Pumpkin Growers Association. There were about half as many pumpkins entered this year than in previous years, largely due to what farmers said were overly hot and sub-optimal growing conditions.

Mathison collected $12,000 in prize money but he says the most important part of Saturday's event was sharing it with his 28-year-old daughter Tara, who uses a wheelchair and has a neuro-developmental disorder called Rett syndrome. She was with him almost every night as he tended to his patch, he said.

He purchased the unique seed from which he grew the pumpkin from the Make-a-Wish Foundation, a charity that arranges joyful experiences for children with life-threatening conditions.

"She knows what it's all about," he said. "It makes her really happy."

The winning pumpkin beat last year's monster pumpkin, which weighed in at 1,584 pounds. But no one came close to beating the current national record for heaviest pumpkin - 2,154 pounds.