By Per Peterson
You can’t have October without pumpkins, and when you’re talking about the popular fruit from the squash family, one name comes to mind for many in the area: Bill Olivier.
Olivier, the president of the Friends of Lake Shetek State Park, came through in a big way once again at this year’s Fall Pumpkin Festival at the Zuya Group Center on Lake Shetek.
“I like giving them away to the kids,” Olivier said minutes before Saturday’s festival began. “This is a big thing for them. Two years ago, we gave 400 pumpkins away. I bought $150 worth of pumpkins that year because we didn’t have enough. It’s fun for me and it’s good for the kids — that’s the biggest thing.”
Just like more traditional corn and soybean farmers, Olivier — who learned from the event two years ago and brought 500 pumpkins to this year’s festival — faces the same growing-season obstacles when it comes to the weather. This year, he was a little leery of the pumpkin crop with so little rain having fallen this summer. Olivier grows the pumpkins at his friend, Paul Malone’s farm south of Tracy.
“You have to have moisture,” he said. “The ground has got be moist, or those seeds will never start.”
After Olivier planted the seeds and saw that nothing was breaking through the soil, he went back to do some digging and investigating to see how the seeds were progressing.
“There were good seeds and others had mold on them, so I went and threw another seed in and covered it up — that’s when I started putting water on them,” Olivier said. “Then they started growing.”
The seeds are planted not even 2 inches below the surface, Olivier said.
“It took a lot of water at first, but once you’ve got them watered, they take off,” he said. “You let them get to a certain size, then you quit watering them and let the roots go down in the ground. When they get down about 6 inches, there’s plenty of moisture there.”
In his six years of growing pumpkins, Olivier has never seen it as dry as it was this summer.
“This is the worst season for everything,” he said. “If I wouldn’t have watered, they wouldn’t have took off.”
See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.