Pumpkin pals: area growers enjoy friendly competition

Colleen Kottke

NEWTON – It’s hard not to notice a 707-pound pumpkin sitting in the bed of a pickup truck in a parking lot.

There's nothing like a 707-pound pumpkin to capture the attention of folks happening to pass by.

But to former Manitowoc County dairy farmer Randy Bonde hauling a ginormous squash in the back of his GMC pickup didn’t seem unusual at all.

“It’s my son’s pumpkin actually,” said Bonde with a laugh. “We drove it over to a weigh-in at the Village of Osman last week and it’s heading to Potter, WI, this weekend for a competition. I didn’t have the sling (attached to a loader tractor) to lift it back out, so it travels with me.”

Bonde says his son is responsible for luring him into the competitive (yet friendly) pumpkin growing business.

“A friend of mine also had some seeds and we got to talking one day, and just for fun, decided to form a little organization of local pumpkin growers and called it Osman Pumpkin Growers Association,” Bonde said. “We’ve had a few meetings over the winter to talk about growing tips and starting a friendly pumpkin growing competition with the folks over from Collins area.”

The groups met recently to weigh-in the large, orange fruits of their labors in the Manitowoc village of Osman. Bonde said his son’s 707-pound pumpkin won the local event and was heading to Potter to compete the following weekend.

“We even have a little traveling trophy,” Bonde said with a smile. “We’re just a group of farmers and area folks that enjoy growing pumpkins. We even had a garden walk and shared with each other everything we had learned during the growing season.”

Randy Bonde of Newton, WI, enjoys a little friendly pumpkin-growing competition between residents of two small Manitowoc County burgs.

As a former farmer and now owner of a greenhouse business, Bonde knows a thing or two about growing plants. He’s used that knowledge to help produce three noteworthy pumpkins this year.

“I grew two 400-pound pumpkins and one that weighed 701-pounds,” Bonde said.

Not bad for a guy who watched a mid-summer hailstorm knock his first pumpkins off the vine.

“My 701-pound pumpkin was pollinated on July 14 so it’s been a short growing season,” he said.

After the weigh-in Bonde wondered what he would do with another 700-pound pumpkin sitting in the back of his other pickup truck.

“I had to get it off the truck so we decided to hollow it out and launch it on Pigeon Lake,” said Bonde, who took a turn paddling the hollowed out squash around the lake. “We had a lot of fun with it.”

The small group of Manitowoc County pumpkin growers are already drawing up plans for the produce from next year’s pumpkin patches.

“We intend to do a lot more things with the pumpkins following the weigh-in,” he said. “I can’t tell you as I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag.”