Barnesville couple named 2017 Grower of the Year

Todd and Donna Skinner of Barnesville celebrate after being named the 2017 World Wide Great Pumpkin Commonwealth Grower of the Year.

BARNESVILLE — Big things happen in small communities such as Barnesville, and sometimes those things are big enough to achieve global renown.

Barnesville residents Todd and Donna Skinner are overjoyed that they earned the title of 2017 World Wide Great Pumpkin Commonwealth Grower of the Year. Thousands of pumpkin growers strive to grow the biggest pumpkin and compete to raise the three largest pumpkins of the year with the heaviest combined weight. The Skinners’ three prized pumpkins of 2017 weighed in at 1,621.5 pounds, 2,112 pounds and 2,150 pounds for a combined total weight of 5,883.5 pounds.

The Skinners, who raise their gourds within Barnesville’s village limits, have been growing pumpkins for 24 years. They said they spend around 40 hours a week for six months tending to their pumpkins. In 2017, the Skinners carefully balanced the major and minor nutrients the pumpkins needed while using a regular fertilizing program.

The couple raised a pretty, pale-orange gourd that shattered local and state records at the most recent Barnesville Pumpkin Festival in September. It was the heaviest King Pumpkin ever at 2,150 pounds.

Tim Miller, festival committee president, uttered just one word when he got his first glimpse of the pumpkin’s official weight: “Wow!”

The Skinners also grew the 2016 King Pumpkin, which weighed in at 1,739 pounds, and five other past king winners. They set an Ohio State Fair record in 2017 with a pumpkin weighing 1,621.5 pounds.

Todd Skinner said his brother is the one who got him into growing pumpkins and he stuck with it. He said there are four keys to success in growing award-winning pumpkins: a lot of hard work, good genetic seeds, balanced nutrition and four to five hours’ worth of daily care. But even with all of that in mind, Skinner said he never thought he would grow pumpkins at this capacity.

To earn the title of the World Wide Great Pumpkin grower of the year, the pumpkin grower must weigh in 3 different pumpkins at three Great Pumpkin Commonwealth sites. There are weigh in sites all around the world, but there are 5 Great Pumpkin Commonwealth weigh in sites in Ohio. The Skinners won and set records at 3 out of the five.

The Skinners came in at first place, but around the world others were growing giant pumpkins. Steve Sperry, Rhode Island, came in at second place with a weigh in at 5,823 pounds. Third place winner, Ruben Mendi, from Spain weighed in his pumpkin at 5,694. Russ Pringrey, California, was the fourth place winner and had pumpkins weigh in at 5,653 pounds. Fifth place was Joel Holland, Washington, with 5,653 pounds. The Great Commonwealth Awards Banquet will be held in Portland Oregon in February of this year.

“We have had a great season and don?t know if we will ever have a season like this again,” Donna Skinner said.

Todd Skinner said he is undecided on his 2018 plan for growing pumpkins and will not have his mind made up until spring.