MOUNTAIN GREEN, Morgan County — Matt McConkie knows how tough the housing market has been the past few years.
He’s a real estate agent, and is as eager as ever to make a deal.
But there’s one thing that may be more exciting to him than closing a home — growing a giant pumpkin.
"In a pumpkin grower’s world, happiness is spending hundreds of dollars for a $5 ribbon,” laughed McConkie.
He’s been at it for four years now, starting with his first pumpkin in the backyard of his Mountain Green home. His neighbor, Tyler Quigley, remembers when McConkie first acted like a farmer.
“Matt told me he was going to grow a giant pumpkin in his backyard, and we all thought he was crazy," Quigley said.
Now, Quigley is hooked, too.
"There's a ton of interest in growing giant pumpkins right now," said McConkie. “It’s highly competitive, but we try to help other growers out.”
Both men are part of the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers organization. The group holds events all year long, but the big event happened recently at Thanksgiving Point. That’s where the weigh-off took place.
McConkie’s big orange monster came in at a whopping 1,600 pounds — breaking the old Utah state record by more than 400 pounds.
“This was an unusually large pumpkin,” said McConkie, “I was actually shocked this one grew so large.”
McConkie isn't exactly forthcoming about how he grew his orange monster.
"There is an absolute science. I would tell you all my secrets, but then I'd have to kill you," he laughed. “Truthfully, you need your soil to be absolutely perfect in terms of fertility and balance between the nutrients, and a little bit of luck.”
He also says giant pumpkins come from great seeds. McConkie got his from a farmer in Ohio.
After word spread of his 1,600-pound success, he’s already getting requests from other pumpkin growers across the country.
“They mail little yellow bubble envelopes to my house,” said McConkie.
He’s willing to give out and trade seeds. It’s part of the giant pumpkin growing community.
But as far as those secrets, he’s not telling.
“I think he’s come clean and told me what he’s doing to his pumpkin,” said Quigley, his pumpkin-growing neighbor. “But when his was 600 pounds heavier than mine, I figured he was sneaking out in the middle of the night to do some extra feeding or something.”
McConkie has a “secret” field where he grows his giants, but he doesn’t want to reveal that location to just anyone.
“My competitors would want to see what I’m up to,” he said.
The location has gates, fences and security cameras. It’s a place he and his neighbor lease just to grow giant pumpkins.
The field is also where they’re planning the biggest pumpkin ever.
"Next year, I'm actually going to take the summer off, build a large greenhouse, and in 2013, I'm going for the world record," McConkie said.Comment on this story
That world record is currently an 1,810-pound pumpkin grown in Wisconsin. This year, McConkie was only 210 pounds off.
"If I don't make it, it's not going to be for a lack of effort," he said.
He really wants that $5 ribbon.