HOFFMAN - As of September 4, the gigantic orange blob lying amidst a sea of green vines and leaves on David Starner's farm near Hoffman reached a hefty 1,029 pounds.
He now can cross growing a 1,000-pound pumpkin off his to-do list.
That half-ton quest has roots going back to 2002, when a Hoffman resident decided to pit local growers against each other to see who could raise the largest pumpkin. While the competition withered, Starner challenged himself.
"I am going to do this every year until I raise one that is 1,000 pounds," Starner vowed. "That is what keeps driving me."
This year, his efforts included burying a heating cable in the garden soil in the spring to keep it at 70 degrees and building a mini greenhouse, complete with a heat lamp, over each of four seedlings. A pig farmer, he had lots of manure to spread over the plants.
In July, "it grew 300 pounds in 10 days! I couldn't believe it," he said.
The weight of the pumpkins is estimated by measurements and a formula that is 95 percent accurate. He will take the giant to a weigh-off in Stillwater on Oct. 13. Win or lose, Starner says he has every intention of trying to grow an even greater pumpkin next year.
After all, the world record is 1,802 pounds.