(Michael Pommier/Tribune photos)
Ronnie Brown, a farmer from the Hiattville area, has been growing some special pumpkins for the past seven or eight years. Of his 10 acres, about five are used to grow pumpkins, which most will be made in to jack-o'-lanterns or pies. However, one special section of his pumpkin patch is used to grow his massive pumpkins.
This year, Brown grew a mixture of Prize Winners and World of Color pumpkins ranging from 140-150 pounds, with some more than two feet across.
Brown said he began growing the big pumpkins, most of which will become yard decorations for the fall, because there was a small demand for them and there was no one selling them. He added that if the market grows, he has the room to expand.
"There is a limited demand for them and nobody else does it locally," he said.
The product of his pumpkin patch is available for purchase at the Fort Scott Farmer's Market as well as the local craft shows, festivals, and fairs. He said as Halloween gets closer he will set up in other spots around Fort Scott like the parking lot of Tractor Supply Company and the car wash to the south of Wendy's. In fact, Brown said that one man will be coming later this week to pick up 11 of the big pumpkins and that he only has about 12 of his 40 big pumpkins left.
Brown planted the seeds at the end of May, which is a little bit later than normal, he said. If the pumpkins are planted too early then they will mature earlier and will not last through Halloween.
"They would do better if they were planted earlier ... they mature too long before Halloween and you lose a lot of them," he said.
According to Brown, the pumpkins need deep fertile soil to properly grow. He added that the biggest challenge growing the big pumpkins, as well as the regular pumpkins, is to keep the bugs away. He said he does use chemicals to prevent squash bugs and cucumber beetles from ruining his patch.
"I know a lot of (people) are opposed to spraying, but if you're in this business, I don't know how you can do without it," he said.
Brown, a life-long farmer, used to farm 1,500 acres until 2002 when he decided to farm on his own. Now with his own 10 acres, he finds it just as difficult.
"I suppose that 10 acres keeps me as busy as 1,500 used to," he said.
Pumpkins are not the only product of Brown's land. He said he grows potatoes, onions, tomatoes, green beans, and much more. He grows more than 80 different varieties of decorative squash, pumpkins, and gourds.
"We've got about everything ... there's not much I don't try," he said.
Brown said he has been selling at the Fort Scott Farmer's Market for about eight years now and he has seen the popularity grow, both in the number of patrons and the number of vendors.
"The business is gradually gaining all the time, it is far different then when I started ... and I think it will continue to get better as we go along," he said.
According to Brown, the phrase "locally grown" is what the Farmer's Market is about. He said it makes more sense, with the current state of the economy and higher gas prices, to buy a pumpkin that was grown in Bourbon County than a pumpkin that was grown in Texas.
"That's the motto that we all use in this business, locally grown ... that kind of sticks in people's minds," he said.