SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Ever wonder how giant pumpkins are grown? Well, it takes a lot of rich soil, careful monitoring and watering, but the real magic comes from the seeds, the giant seeds passed down from generations of giant pumpkins.
Ryan Althoff, a pumpkin grower in Watertown, won the 2023 Great South Dakota Pumpkin Weigh-Off on October 7 with a 1,602-pound pumpkin. Althoff used a seed from Greg Kurkowski, who holds the current state record for the largest pumpkin.
Kurkowski’s pumpkins have made it on the top 20 list for South Dakota four times, most recently in 2021 with a 1,823-pound squash. Kurkowski’s other high-ranking pumpkins came in at 1,481.5 pounds in 2010, 1,453 pounds in 2019 and 1,378 pounds in 2020.
Kurkowski’s prize-winning squash came from a 2020 pumpkin that Charlie Bernstrom grew in Lancaster Minnesota. Bernstrom’s pumpkin weighed 1,990 pounds and came from a pumpkin seed in Oregon.
In second place for the biggest pumpkin in South Dakota is Kevin Marsh with a 1,674-pound white pumpkin in 2010. Marsh also has the most pumpkins on the top 20 list with 11 pumpkins, ranging from 1,342 pounds in 2011 to 1,674 in 2010.
Pumpkin Seed Genetics categorizes the biggest pumpkins in the world, creates fact sheets for all the pumpkins and family trees for the seeds. The top four pumpkin growers in the state are Kurkowski, Marsh, Althoff and Justin Fossum. Every pumpkin that the four farmers have submitted for competition can be traced back at least 20 generations to the same 1986 pumpkin that weighed 671 pounds.
As farmers became more serious about the genetics of their giant pumpkins, the seeds for these prize-winning pumpkins can get pretty expensive and can go for a few hundred dollars.
“People will spend up to 500 bucks for a seed, just one seed,” Traci Althoff, Ryan’s wife, said. “Then there’s no guarantees with this at all, you know, because it has to germinate and sometimes it just doesn’t.”