Jim Bryson and his daughter Kelsey have grown a pumpkin that recently set a Canadian record. The pumpkin weighed in at the Woodbridge Fall Fair in Ontario on October 9, and it was the first time in Canada that a pumpkin weighed over 2000 pounds. The Brysons have been growing giant gourds for over a decade, working as a father-daughter team and setting many records in their time, such as a previous world record in 2011. Their pumpkins are legendary.
The quest started when Bryson’s cousin gifted him a pumpkin seed, which he planted just for fun. That first year, he grew a 600-pound pumpkin – and he was hooked. The second year, he grew two 900-pound pumpkins. In his third year (2010), Kelsey joined in the pumpkin-growing fun, and they grew a 1600-pound gourd together.
It was a huge moment for the team when their entry broke the Canadian record for the heaviest pumpkin. Neither one of them were expecting this outcome. Bryson explains that they “had been to a weigh-in the week earlier, and the pumpkin we had there was actually a couple inches bigger than the one we had with us, [but] it was over a hundred pounds lighter than what it should have been. I was just hoping we wouldn’t go light again.”
While the record-breaking pumpkin was being weighed, there were people stepping on and off the scale to adjust it to get a fair weight. Kelsey saw the final number on the scale’s display before it was called by the judge and convinced herself that there must have been someone still on the scale.
When the number was announced as 2006.5 pounds (over 910 kilograms), she says, “I accidentally almost pushed my dad over because I was in shock… My dad and I started tearing up, and everyone was congratulating us – it was crazy!” Her father agrees that the moment felt absolutely amazing.
The Brysons have tried growing other types of giant produce as well. “We had a sunflower head that was around 20 inches, and a tomato that was six pounds, but I’ve kind of given that up to do pumpkins,” says Bryson. At the Woodbridge weigh-off, the team had also entered sunflowers in two different categories; however, Kelsey mentions that the results of those contests were overshadowed. “I think we won the sunflower head [class] this weekend, but we were so focused on the pumpkin that I don’t even know. [The sunflower] was 21 inches (53.3 centimetres) from one petal to the other across. And our tall sunflower was 199 inches (5 metres) tall, which is pretty small for us.”
The two often travel to Ontario for weigh-offs. Sometimes they are the only people representing our region of Quebec, or even the province itself. Kelsey says, “For us, it’s not so much where we’re from, but it’s more exciting just being a part of another community and [then] coming back to Ormstown and sharing that victory with our community.”
There is no secret formula for growing giant pumpkins, but both Brysons emphasize how important it is to grow them without tilling. Kelsey explains that tilling the soil for pumpkins can be detrimental: “It’s kind of like you’re creating an earthquake in the soil, and all of the living creatures that could be helping your pumpkin kind of scatter away.” She also mentions that pumpkins are a cover crop, and Bryson adds that they’re all organic which is less expensive but more difficult to manage.
The two agree that working together with the pumpkins over the past 11 years has been a great bonding experience. They say they have both learned so much in the process, and state that without the shared giant pumpkin quest their relationship might not be as close as it is now.