Top News

Ansems family sweeps heaviest pumpkin category at Windsor’s weigh-off


Record-breaking squash grown in Steam Mill

WINDSOR, N.S. —

The crowd gathered at the Dill Family Farm — home of the Atlantic Giant Pumpkin — for the annual Windsor West Hants Pumpkin Weigh-off knew it had been a challenging year for Maritime farmers.

They heard how the three D’s — drench, drought, and Dorian — significantly affected crops. And while some of the entries were much smaller than in previous years, Fred Ansems, of Steam Mill, managed to break a Maritime record.

His squash tipped the scale at 618 kilograms (1,362 pounds). As of press time, it was unknown if the squash also set a Canadian record, but weigh-off announcers believed it had.

“I knew it was going to beat the Maritime record,” he said, grinning.

“It was a little bit lighter than I was hoping but you always hope for more,” he added.

Fred Ansems and his wife Shirley Ansems were smiling when they heard the news that it may have broken the Canadian weight record for squash. The pair grow four squash and six pumpkins each year and have been competing in the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth since 2012, though they’ve been competing against family members, for fun, since the 1990s.

“It was taping 398 inches and I think the Maritime record was 350 so there was quite a size difference,” said Fred Ansems as he explained how he knew his giant green squash was a solid contender.

Shirley Ansems said growing giant vegetables is a hobby for the couple. They operate a chicken farm and Fred Ansems also works full-time at Valley Waste.

“That’s how we spend every evening and every weekend — we’re in the pumpkin patch,” said Shirley Ansems, who spends much of her free time hand-hoeing the garden. Fred Ansems tackles watering and feeding the planted veggies. It’s a labour of love for the duo.

Gerard Ansems, from Steam Mill, and his grandson Connor LeMere, 7, visiting from Arizona, react to the announcer as he says Ansems has won the heaviest pumpkin for 2019. CAROLE MORRIS-UNDERHILL PHOTO
Gerard Ansems, from Steam Mill, and his grandson Connor LeMere, 7, visiting from Arizona, react to the announcer as he says Ansems has won the heaviest pumpkin for 2019. CAROLE MORRIS-UNDERHILL PHOTO

The couple also saw success in the pumpkin category, placing second and third — right behind Gerard Ansems, Fred’s father.

Gerard Ansems’ pumpkin weighed in at 777 kilograms (1,714 lbs), Fred Ansems’ was 538 kg (1,185 lbs), and Shirley Ansems’ was 501 kg (1,105 lbs).

Rounding out the heaviest pumpkins was Tom Dudka’s New Glasgow entry, which weighed 490 kg (1,080 lbs).

When Gerard Ansems learned he won the competition, he celebrated with his grandson, seven-year-old Connor LeMere, who was visiting from Arizona.

“It’s supposed to weigh around 1,500 pounds so it went over 15 to 20 per cent,” said an elated Gerard Ansems.

He said growing giant vegetables is a fun hobby, though the weather this year was challenging.

“May and June, we didn’t get much sunshine and then in July, we had a dry spell for about three weeks,” said Gerard Ansems. “And then we got Dorian, and then a few weeks ago we had a little frost. We had a little bit of everything.”

As for the Ansems family sweep of the heaviest pumpkin category, he said: “It was very exciting; I didn’t think it was going to happen.”

There are three giant vegetable weigh-offs held in Nova Scotia each year: one in Waterville, one in Windsor, and one in Millville.

Hants West MLA Chuck Porter said despite the chilly fall weather, it was nice to see so many people out supporting events like the weigh-off.

Porter said it was also heartwarming to see the farmers still manage to produce decent crops, despite the challenging growing season.

“It was a difficult season in a couple of ways for growing, but (the yield is) still quite impressive,” Porter said, noting he’s pleased the regatta, slated for Oct. 19, wasn’t cancelled and was instead, downsized to accommodate the lack of giant pumpkins available this year.

“Those who remember the first one or two (regattas), the numbers were quite small,” said Porter.

There will be five giant pumpkins being paddled this year, when there’s usually 50-plus. Despite the scaled-back regatta, Porter says “it’ll be great.”

The weigh-off generally takes place the first weekend in October, with the regatta taking place about two weeks later.

Kody Blois, a Liberal candidate for the Kings-Hants riding, was a guest judge at the Dill Family Farm during the weekend weigh-off. Pictured next to him is Bill Morneau, incumbent MP for Toronto Centre and finance minister, who was in town visiting. JIM IVEY PHOTO
Kody Blois, a Liberal candidate for the Kings-Hants riding, was a guest judge at the Dill Family Farm during the weekend weigh-off. Pictured next to him is Bill Morneau, incumbent MP for Toronto Centre and finance minister, who was in town visiting. JIM IVEY PHOTO

And the winners are...

Heaviest pumpkin

Gerard Ansems, Steam Mill, 777 kilograms (1,714 pounds)

Fred Ansems, Steam Mill, 538 kg (1,185 lbs)

Shirley Ansems, Steam Mill, 501 kg (1,105 lbs)

Heaviest Squash

Fred Ansems, Steam Mill, 618 kg (1,362 lbs)

Shirley Ansems, Steam Mill, 344 kg (759 lbs)

Jeremy Zwicker, Mahone Bay, 244 kg (538 lbs)

Heaviest field pumpkin

Al Aten, Springvale, PEI, 68 kg (150 lbs)

Gerard Ansems, Steam Mill, 52 kg (115 lbs)

Debbie Aten, Springvale, PEI, 47 kg (103 lbs)

Catharina Ansems, Steam Mill, 47 kg (103 lbs)

Heaviest watermelon

Gerard Ansems, Steam Mill, 39 kg (86 lbs)

Santos Tremino, Brooklyn, 33 kg (72 lbs)

Catharina Ansems, Steam Mill, 24 kg (54 lbs)

Heaviest gourd bushell

Gerard Ansems, Steam Mill, 118 kg (260 lbs)

Catharina Ansems, Steam Mill, 78 kg (173 lbs)

Frank Ansems, Steam Mill, 35 kg (77 lbs)

*Other vegetables were measured, including heaviest tomato, and various contests, like the pumpkin painting competition, were judged. Full results will be available online at: https://worldsbiggestpumpkins.com/

Recent Stories