A packet of seeds landed on the desk of every staff member with instructions to go away and grow the biggest pumpkin by Halloween. The winner would not only receive the official Compass Pumpkin Trophy (painted by Operations Director, Matthew Thomas), but 365 days of glory and bragging rights until the next champion was crowned.
Last year, that honour was bestowed on Matthew Thomas. A lot of blood, sweat and soil helped him to grow a behemoth pumpkin that weighed in at 42kg – which is approximately the weight of 210 vinyl records of ‘Thriller’ or 1 freshly born calf.
Leaving all other competitors in the dust, you would be forgiven for thinking that 2023 would yield a similar result but you’d be wrong. This year’s competition has been the closest yet, and it took a photo finish on the final weigh-in day to declare the winner.
It all started in early spring, with Matt arriving at the office with a handful of seeds that had been harvested from last year’s winner. He attempted to distribute these to staff, jokingly promising that their crop would perhaps reach double digits on the scales this year. This was Matt’s first mistake – the rest of the team point blank refused to accept his sympathy seeds and were now more determined than ever to ensure he wasn’t crowned champion for a second year running.
Location, location, location
The first piece of advice that any former champion of the Compass Pumpkin Growing Competition will tell you when planting your seeds is ‘Location, Location, Location.’
- The first location – The Geographic Area of the Country you live in (this affects everything from soil type to weather conditions)
- The second location – Where on your property you choose to plant (plant in a suntrap and your crop will shrivel, plant in the shade and your crop will be more vulnerable to frost)
- The third location – the vessel in which you plant your seeds. Too protected and you will stunt your pumpkins growth, too open and you are prone to pests!
To that end, competitors chose the following conditions:
- Stewart & Helen: Wokingham (warm-mild average temperature), side of house, whiskey barrel.
- Matt: Telford (cold, harsh conditions), garden, designated pumpkin patch.
- Tom: Outsourced to his in-laws in Reading (warm-mild average temperatures), garden, general vegetable patch.
- Harry: Newbury (warm-mid average temperatures), garden, old koi carp pond.
As the months went on, contestants shared regular updates on their progress, with each picture coming through on the work WhatsApp group trying to go one-up on the last. With Tom’s front-runner being ravished by rabbits and Helen & Stewart’s pumpkin failing to germinate for a second year running, it was clear by the end of Summer that this would come down to a two-horse race between former Champion Matthew Thomas and Harry Ower.
For perspective, contestants always place household objects next to their pumpkin as an easy size comparison – as Harry’s objects in these photos increased in size, the quieter Matthew Thomas became. Eventually, two weeks before the final weigh-in, Matthew Thomas called Harry to concede the race.
When the day of the weigh-in came, Harry received a standing ovation in the office. The sun had finally set on Matt’s 365 days of glory as a new champion emerged.
The official results, announced by Managing Director, Stewart Ower:
- Harry Ower – 27.65kg
- Matthew Thomas – 9.1kg
- Tom Ower – 1.05kg (originally this didn’t register on the scale)
Commenting on his win, Harry Ower, Compass Pumpkin Champion 2023, said: “Beating Matt was extremely satisfying. It takes tremendous sacrifice to compete at this level and I’m glad that my efforts have paid off.
“Now I know what it takes to win, I am already looking forward to next year’s challenge.”
There was no hiding the disappointment on the face of outgoing champion Matt who made the following statement: “Listen. Harry can celebrate as much as he likes, but his ‘prize pumpkin’ was nowhere near the all-time Compass record that I set last year.
“He can have 24 hours to celebrate but if he wants to go down in history as the GOAT (greatest of all time), he needs to be in the garden preparing to smash my record next year.”
And so ends this year’s competition, with Happy Halloween wishes from the Compass team who hope you tune in again next year!