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Go BIG or go home

Spring Hope man grows record-breaking produce

Posted on September 27, 2021

WAW
Danny Vester of Spring Hope oversees his giant pumpkin being rigged out of the patch and onto a pallet. The pallet and pumpkin were then lifted onto a flatbed truck by crane and rigging company Edwards, Inc. The next morning, the pumpkin made the trip to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Tennessee Valley Fair where it weighed in at 1,390 pounds.

Contributed photo

Danny Vester of Spring Hope oversees his giant pumpkin being rigged out of the patch and onto a pallet. The pallet and pumpkin were then lifted onto a flatbed truck by crane and rigging company Edwards, Inc. The next morning, the pumpkin made the trip to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Tennessee Valley Fair where it weighed in at 1,390 pounds.

When Spring Hope area resident Danny Vester retired from an area telephone company about seven years ago, he decided he needed to take up a hobby. Golf perhaps? Woodworking? Fishing? 

None of the above. Vester decided to grow giant vegetables. And he succeeded right out of the gate. 

“The very first pumpkin I entered in a contest set a state record at 1,296 pounds,” Vester said. “Of the top five all-time largest pumpkins grown in North Carolina, I’ve grown four of them.”

A pumpkin weighing 1506.5  pounds is Vester’s current state record, set at the 2019 North Carolina State Fair.

Vester doesn’t just grow huge pumpkins. He also grows gigantic cantaloupes and watermelons. In 2018, Vester was a Guinness Book of World Records holder for growing a cantaloupe weighing 65.9 pounds. The current cantaloupe record holder weighed 71 pounds and was grown from the seed of Vester’s 65.9 pound cantaloupe.

But Vester faces stiff competition wherever he enters his giant crops. Even close to home.

“Two of the top five largest watermelons in the world were entered at the Spring Hope weigh-off last year,” Vester said. “You could possibly see a watermelon over 300 pounds. You just don’t know until you drive up there that Saturday morning.”

This year’s weigh-off is held in conjunction with the Spring Hope National Pumpkin Festival on Saturday, Oct. 2.

Vester didn’t necessarily mean to grow world-record size produce, but he did start out on this course for two reasons.

First, he was encouraged by his son, Ethan Vester, president of the Spring Hope Area Chamber of Commerce, and others involved in the Spring Hope National Pumpkin Festival to try his hand at growing large pumpkins that could be used in festival marketing and drawing visitors to the festival.

“He started growing these pumpkins to aid the chamber with bringing the festival more notoriety and bringing it back to its agricultural roots,” said Ethan Vester. “We use the giants for publicity, and our sponsors are reacting well. Donations and support are coming from new and often agriculture-based companies.”

The second reason was educational in nature.

“I want to show my grandkids the benefits of agriculture and growing food,” Vester said. “I want them to see where their food comes from and make sure they can feed themselves if the world goes sideways.”

Vester has also started programs for 4-H clubs in Nash and Edgecombe counties, giving the groups pumpkin plants that could grow giant, if not record-breaking, pumpkins. He also donates seeds from his giant crops to agricultural groups that auction them off. His produce seeds have been used to grow plants in Europe, England, Spain, Slovakia and all over the United States. 

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