You’ll find prize pumpkins and tasty melons at Pioneer Farms.
WRITTEN BY ERIN MEYERING
PHOTOS BY CANDICE NYANDO
Picture a 715-pound pumpkin. A pumpkin weighing about as much as a polar bear or large vending machine, and more than a Harley Davidson Street 500.
Scott Goodpasture of Pioneer Farms in Fallon grew a pumpkin this size, the largest in Nevada to date, and won fourth place in a nationwide pumpkin competition in 2000. Since then, he’s cultivated several impressive 500-pound pumpkins and is working on a big one this year, which was planted in spring.
Goodpasture moved to the area more than 20 years ago and, at the time, he farmed and seeded alfalfa for a neighbor, but yearned to grow other vegetables. Soon after, he started Pioneer Farms in 1992. It’s a perfect five-acre lot for seasonal melons; giant pumpkins; and various flowers, including peonies, sunflowers, and gladioli. Goodpasture (a fitting name for a farmer) also grows early crops such as cabbage, fennel, tomatoes, and broccoli.
The produce from Pioneer Farms contributes to the Great Basin Basket CSA, which is organized nearby at Lattin Farms in Fallon, and is sold at the Great Basin Community Food Co-op in Reno. However, he saves his giant pumpkins to sell as displays.
A growing concern
To be successful at growing giant pumpkins, you have to start the seed early — anywhere from late April to the first of May, Goodpasture says. And the seed? Highly important and handled similarly to a thoroughbred horse. It’s passed down from generation to generation and sometimes is sold at auction.
“It’s a real delicacy,” Goodpasture says. “You have to spend a lot of time on [giant pumpkins].”
What started out as just an experiment and another vegetable turned into a fairly time-consuming hobby. Each giant pumpkin is hand pollinated and treated as royalty. It must be fed constantly and have its vines trimmed, just enough so it receives the necessary nutrition to thrive.
“[Farming] is a lot harder than people may think, and it’s a challenge to grow giant [pumpkins] in Nevada because of the climate,” Goodpasture says. “If you’re going to go big, everything has to be perfect.”
To help with the unpredictable and often dry climate, Goodpasture uses a mister when the temperatures reach more than 90 degrees F. This is because dry air can crimp the leaves, jeopardizing the pumpkin’s overall health.
Whether it is methodically caring for a large pumpkin or maintaining seasonal cantaloupe, Goodpasture displays the dedication it takes to supply hearty and beautiful autumn crops.
Erin Meyering is a local writer and lover of seasonal activities. She’s amazed at how elaborate and intense the process of growing a giant pumpkin is. So instead, she’ll leave the growing to the farmers and enjoy a sweet slice of pumpkin pie this season.
9525 Pioneer Way, Fallon
Pioneer Pumpkin Bread
(courtesy Scott Goodpasture, owner of Pioneer Farms in Fallon. Makes 3 loaves)
2½ cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
⅔ cup water
2 cups cooked pumpkin
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease and flour 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
In large bowl, beat together sugar, oil, eggs, water, and pumpkin. Add dry ingredients and mix.
Pour into bread pans. Bake for one hour. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and place on wire rack.
Wrap in foil and store overnight before serving.