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Meet the Citrus Heights team who set state record for largest pumpkin

Ron Root (L) and Nick Kennedy (R) with one of the pumpkins the team grew in the 2023 season. A larger pumpkin than the one pictured here broke the state record for largest pumpkin in California, and placed second worldwide.

By Mike Hazlip—
Citrus Heights resident Ronald Root partnered with Nick Kennedy of Fair Oaks to set a new state record last month for the largest pumpkin, while also taking 2nd place in the 50th annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off at Half-Moon Bay.

The team grew their 2,497 pound pumpkin in Citrus Heights at the property that is home to the Pumpkin Patch, Root said. Although the property has not been open to the public since COVID, Kennedy said the owners have been generous in allowing the use of their land. The team plans to grow there again next year, aiming for the world record.

Root has been growing giant pumpkins for two decades after an injury led him to look for ways to stay active.

“I was injured and I was sitting home feeling pain,” Root said. “My pain doctor kept telling me, you got to get out of the house and do something, you won’t feel as much pain. So within a few days of that, I see the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival.”

The two teamed up about two years ago at a meeting in Elk Grove where Ron was looking for someone near Citrus Heights willing to grow the pumpkins.

“Ron stepped up to the plate and took me under his wing and said, Hey, I want to help you out, and so and then this year we decided to team up together,” Kennedy said.

Some of the key ingredients to growing a record-breaking pumpkin is seed, soil, and time, Root said. The land at the pumpkin patch has the right mix of nutrients for growing giant pumpkins.

“The seed, more than anything, it’s an Atlantic Giant seed, a Dill Atlantic Giant,” Root said. “Then you have to have really, really good soil. And it has to be perfectly balanced on the nutrients, need to be in the right ratios to each other, and then you have to plant it early enough to get it to this size.”

Kennedy, who works for a data company, takes a scientific approach to the task, collecting and analyzing data to reach the optimum growing conditions. He compared growing giant pumpkins to body building, saying it doesn’t happen by accident.

Aside from bragging rights and the cash prize, Kennedy and Root say seeing people’s reaction is its own reward.

“When you’re driving down the road with one on the back in the truck, you get all the thumbs up,” Root said. “People with their cameras out, video, and it’s a lot of smiles. Everybody’s happy when they see a giant pumpkin I think. Adults, kids alike.”

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