Thursday October 18, 2012

SHEFFIELD -- Howden Farm very well may hold The Great Pumpkin.

In the early 1970s, John A. Howden developed the Howden Pumpkin, "the standard of the industry," his son, 71-year-old Bruce Howden said.

Howden pumpkins weigh in at about 20 pounds, Howden said, and are a plump, bright orange. John A. Howden received a horticultural patent for the Howden pumpkin.

He also developed the pumpkin known as the Howden Biggie, a 42-pound behemoth. It also received a patent in 1996.

"He did it by selection," Bruce Howden, the current owner, said. "He'd go through the fields and select the best pumpkins. He'd save the seeds to plant next year's crop with. It isn't that we spliced the genes."

About four years ago, Bruce Howden developed what's known as the Howden XXX. It weighs in at about 26 pounds, and has a deeper orange hue.

"They're all for decoration primarily," he said. "A pie pumpkin would be sweeter."

A farm and bed and breakfast at 303 Rannapo Road in Sheffield, Howden farms now sales the seeds to their patented pumpkins to other farmers and the public.

"Everybody's growing pumpkins," Howden said. "It's gotten harder and harder to make a living selling fresh-market pumpkins."

When planting pumpkins, it's important to take in factors such a climate, according to Ruth Hazzard, a vegetable specialist for UMass Extension.

"[Pumpkins] like to be planted in soil that's not terribly cold," she said. "A steady supply of moisture is always really good. So if you have a long dry spell it could dry up the crop."

Farmers sometimes start looking toward pumpkin season around July, Hazzard said, when bees begin pollinating the flowers, transferring the the pollen from the male to female flowers.

"If the seeds are not fertilized, then there's no fruit," Hazzard said.

Howden's agricultural skills have left an impression on farming and plant enthusiasts. Hazzard knew who they were just by the description of Howden Farm pumpkins.

"They do a good job," Hazzard said.

To reach Adam Poulisse:
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