Solvang Farmer Pumpkin Patch once again is open for business, peddling hundreds of multicolored gourds of all sizes at their Alamo Pintado roadside stand and growing grounds.

This year, however, one pumpkin on the lot is squashing its competition: A 700-pound heirloom. And it's for sale.

"I've got a 'I don't want to sell it now' price tag on it of $1,000," said local farmer and company co-founder Steve Jacobsen. "Right now, it's my drawing card."

Jacobsen, who launched the patch on Alamo Pintado Road, complete with a 10-acre corn maze for visitors to navigate, in 2010 is no less amazed by the giant gourd that's getting attention from seasonal visitors. 

"It's monstrous," he said. "In my dad's years and mine, I've never [grown one this big]."

Jacobsen's father, Arne Jacobsen, in 1985 founded and operated the original and smaller-version Solvang Farmer pumpkin patch off Highway 246 until its closure in 2000.

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Father and son, Michael and Scotch McConnell, make their seasonal visit to Solvang Farmer Pumpkin Patch on Friday.

Stumped as to how this year's production could yield significantly larger pumpkins than in years past, Jacobsen explained that nothing special had been done to warrant such growth and chalked it all up to outside forces.

"Last year's biggest pumpkin is an average size this year," Steve Jacobsen said. "It's Mother Nature, too; you just don't know."

He explained that in competitions, pumpkin-growers go to great lengths to grow winning gourds, including playing them music, injecting them with milk, shading them from the sun and plucking off all excess fruit from the vine.

But they did none of that.

"Had we known, had I been able to pull the fruit off, that thing could have gotten a lot bigger," Jacobsen said, pointing to the 40-plus-foot vine from which the giant pumpkin had been plucked and its tree stump-like stem. 

In addition, just two weeks earlier the pumpkin patch sold "the sister" gourd for $400, Jacobsen said. It weighed in at approximately 500 pounds.

"It went to Huntington Beach in the back of a Mercedes station wagon," he said, noting that it required a small army to lift and situate the gourd inside the vehicle.

The heirloom variety, according to Jacobsen, is an open pollinated species that "can do all sorts of things" versus the hybrid variety which is bred specifically for its traditional orange color and round shape, most popular during the fall season.

Whether or not their pumpkins break size records year over year, the hope each season is to produce the biggest and best for his customers, Jacobsen said.   

"We're going to try and shoot for it, but it's really luck of the draw," he said, projecting next year's growing season.

A certain change on the horizon, however, is the business location.

"This is the last hurrah. This is probably our last year in this spot, since this place sold," Jacobsen said.

The family-run operation, including the corn maze, pumpkin stand and growing grounds, will pack up and move, but likely to the 40-acre lot located right across the street from the family's current operations.

"It's a bummer, but we've been here nine or 10 years. We've been fortunate enough," he said. "But we've got to keep doing the tradition. People expect it."

Lisa André covers lifestyle and local news for Santa Ynez Valley News and Lompoc Record, editions of the Santa Maria Times.


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