Champion Pumpkin Grower in DuPage County

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Pumped about Pumpkins

Joe Adkins’ passion for pumpkins stems from carving them as a child. But as an adult, he realized the larger the pumpkin, the larger the canvas he could carve on.

“I started off as a kid and always had an obsession with carving pumpkins,” said Adkins. “That turned from Jack-o-Lanterns to Big Max, which are about 100 pounds. And then I heard about these Atlantic Giant varieties, so we ended up getting involved in this so we could carve them.”

Always Learning More

The Wheaton man is constantly studying up on how to grow his gourds bigger and heavier. This year, his largest pumpkin topped out at 1,258 pounds, the heaviest pumpkin grown in Illinois in 2019.

And this was a down year for the four-time defending state champion pumpkin grower. His heaviest pumpkin ever came in 2016, when a massive 1,861-pounder sprouted out of his garden.

A Helping Hand

Moving something that big takes a helping hand.

“The guy from Wheaton Mulch, Scott, he drives down here and we lasso it up with a pumpkin ring and lift it up and put it on a skid and he just picks up and sticks it on the rental truck,” said Adkins.

Adkins usually starts carving his giants in mid-October. He says he sees a face in every pumpkin and is simply uncovering them.

Year-Round Work

He’s already started prepping his patch for next year. Though planting season isn’t until April, it’s important to collect seeds that will become next year’s crop. The right seed can cost up to $200.

He’s hoping one of those seeds will help him accomplish his next goal:

“Two thousand pounds of course. I’ve been shooting for 2,000 pounds the last couple of years.”

The champion pumpkin grower uses his winnings from the weigh-in to buy candy for trick-or-treaters, which means he’s carving out fun the whole neighborhood can enjoy.

And though the most popular question he gets asked is about how many pumpkin pies the pumpkins make, Atlantic Giants aren’t sweet enough for pie, and Adkins sprays them to deter bugs, which means no giant pumpkin pies.

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.