By Paxtyn Merten, deputy city editor
Sue Chadwick snapped photos with a wide smile Tuesday afternoon as her 1,082 pound pumpkin was unloaded from her trailer by a forklift and wheeled into the Boston Public Market, where it was set in front of a sign that read “Welcome Pumpking: The Official Pumpkin of Boston.”
It was the largest pumpkin that Chadwick, a Greenfield, Massachusetts farmer who has been growing pumpkins for eight years, had ever produced. It sat alongside her 800 pound squash, also the largest of its kind that she had ever cultivated.
Chadwick’s Official Pumpkin of Boston title was a sweet victory for her after last year, when her pumpkin came in second to the 1,020-pound pumpkin which took that year’s crown.
She said she enjoyed watching market-goers admire her produce and take pictures with the squash and pumpkin.
“I love it. I like to see people see them and wonder about them, ‘How in the world did you get them that big?’” Chadwick said.
This is the second year in a row the Boston Public Market (BPM) has displayed an Official Pumpkin of Boston through the help of one of their vendors, Red Apple Farm. Last year’s pumpkin, named Gordo, was on display throughout the fall alongside three other large pumpkins grown by multiple farmers, said BPM Marketing and Communications Director Amanda Campbell.
“It’s a great opportunity to talk about who we are and talk about our vendors here,” she said. “This came with the help of one of our vendors who we love, Red Apple Farm, and so it’s just a great thing to engage people for the season and talk about fall and fall produce.”
Campbell said that this year, Chadwick grew the pumpkin with the BPM in mind.
Special seeds are needed to grow pumpkins and squash to such large proportions, Chadwick said. They must grow in good, rich land and be supplemented by lots of soil, nutrients, water, space and sun. In addition, Chadwick said she had to let only one pumpkin grow on the plant and remove the rest so that all of the growing energy would go into just one.
The pumpkin came in first place at the Wachusett Mountain Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off Oct. 15, which included a $400 prize, and came in fourth place in a similar contest at the Big E state fair in West Springfield, Massachusetts on Sept. 23.
The BPM is holding a contest to name this year’s Official Pumpkin of Boston, and customers can write in suggestions upon visiting the pumpkin. The pumpkin will be on display until early December, Campbell said.
After the pumpkin’s arrival Tuesday, BPM vendor Jennifer Lee’s Gourmet Bakery hosted a kids’ pumpkin painting event.
Kortney Patel, North End waterfront resident and mother of two, heard about the pumpkin unveiling through an email from the Boston Public Market and brought her son and a child she babysits to watch the unveiling and paint pumpkins.
“This is a fun event for the city kids, bringing farm life into the city. We are very excited,” Patel said.
Patel said she shops at the market and attend events there often, and that the activities are “fantastic and appealing for kids.”
The arrival of the Official Boston Pumpkin corresponds with several other seasonal events at the BPM.
These include BPM’s upcoming Harvest Party fundraiser Thursday and Sunday’s Pumpkin Fest, where visitors will be able to carve and decorate pumpkins and sample pumpkin foods and beverages from BPM vendors.
“When we opened we wanted to be this civic hub. We want to be a place for the community to come together to learn about food, to appreciate food, to learn about nutrition and cooking and shopping and to learn what it means to shop locally,” Campbell said. “A big part of that is community programming and all of these activities that we do. We want to bring people in here to have a fun time.”
Photo by Alex Melagrano