It’s not quite a dynasty, but one Terrell County, Georgia, teenager has ruled the competitive pumpkin-growing circuit for youth in Georgia for the last two years.
For the second year in a row, Caroline Daniel of Terrell County 4-H won first place in Georgia 4-H’s annual pumpkin contest. This year, her behemoth Atlantic Giant pumpkin weighed in at 350 pounds. In 2014, Daniel’s pumpkin came in first at 430 pounds.
While she did not match her own personal best this year, her pumpkin was more than twice the size of the second place gourd.
Daniel, who inherited her green thumb from her father, Mark Daniel, of Mark’s Melon Patch in Dawson, Georgia, comes from a family of dedicated Georgia 4-H’ers. Each year her father sets aside a separate patch at his commercial melon farm in which his daughter grows pumpkins and watermelons for competition, said Terrell County 4-H agent Margaret Halbrook.
“It is just really cool (that Mark provides Caroline with the space to grow pumpkins and watermelons) because she’s able to work beside him and learn the way he does things, but she has her own distinct part of the farm to work in,” Halbrook said.
This is Daniel’s last year of eligibility for the Georgia 4-H Pumpkin Growing Contest, Halbrook said. Her fellow Terrell County 4-H’ers are sad to see her go, but joke that they’re eager to see if they can take the top prize next year without her in the competition.
Daniel is one of dozens of Georgia 4-H club members who enter the club’s annual pumpkin-growing contest each year.
On average, Halloween pumpkins are about 10 to 20 pounds each. The 4-H’ers who placed in this year’s top 10 managed to raise gourds that were at least five times as large as the average jack-o’-lantern.
Kellee Alday of Seminole County, Georgia, took home second place with her 148-pound Atlantic Dill pumpkin, and Savannah Crosby of Lumpkin County, Georgia, took home third place with her 147-pound gourd.
The top three 4-H’ers will receive a cash prize from the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association in recognition of the months they spent tending their plants.
Other Georgia 4-H club members who produced pumpkins of note this year and the size of their pumpkins are as follows:
- Fourth place: Ella Daniel of Tift County, Georgia, 124 pounds
- Fifth place: Bradden Weeks of Tift County, 111 pounds
- Sixth place: Ree Daniel of Tift County, 110 pounds
- Seventh place: Collin Weeks of Tift County, 99 pounds
- Eighth place: Bradley Cohen of Grady County, Georgia, 94 pounds
- Ninth place: Taylor Walker of Tift County, 92 pounds
- Tenth-place tie: Ansley Starling of Tift County, 83 pounds, and Janeth Vasquez of Tift County, 83 pounds
Georgia 4-H leaders say the pumpkin contest teaches students the responsibility needed to complete a long-term project, the self-motivation and confidence needed to tackle a project independently and the ability to use problem-solving skills to persevere against insects, dry spells and pumpkin diseases.
“The 4-H Pumpkin Growing Contest is a great project to get kids digging in the dirt, planting seeds and learning about gardening. Whether their pumpkin ends up the size of a Volkswagen Beetle or just a grape, 4-H’ers can experience firsthand the challenges and satisfaction of growing plants,” said Jeff Buckley, a Georgia 4-H faculty member who has coordinated the contest in the past. “Perhaps this contest will spark an interest in gardening that will guide them to a career in the agricultural and environmental sciences.”
To learn more about the Georgia 4-H Pumpkin Growing Contest, contact contest organizer Olivia Browning at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (706) 542-4H4H (4444). To find out more about Georgia 4-H, visit georgia4H.org.