Couple grows award-winning pumpkins

Barry and Robin Shrum, of Woodstock, sit on top of a 731-pound pumpkin in the back of his pickup truck at their home on Wednesday. The Shrums have been raising giant pumpkins for several years. Barry Shrum's entry at the Virginia State Fair placed second this year, and his wife's entry placed fourth. Her 512-pound pumpkin also placed first as the prettiest pumpkin and is on display at the governor's mansion in Richmond. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Barry and Robin Shrum grew award-winning pumpkins for this year’s Virginia State Fair.

Barry Shrum placed second at the fair with his 731.8-pound pumpkin. His wife Robin placed fourth with her 512-pound pumpkin, which was  also awarded “Prettiest Giant Pumpkin.” Her entry was chosen because of its bright orange color, which she said is most people’s favorite pumpkin color.

“It’s a pretty interesting hobby,” she said.

Barry Shrum added, “It’s a fun, neat project.”

Robin Shrum, who is principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Strasburg, said her pumpkin is being transported to the governor’s mansion for display and that they plan to visit the governor in Richmond on Friday and will pose for photos with their pumpkins.

Barry Shrum holds a giant pumpkin seed that compares its size to a quarter. Rich Cooley/Daily

At the state fair, there were 15 entries for pumpkins. Barry Shrum said most years there are more than 30 entries. He won $200 for his second-place pumpkin, and his wife won $100 for her entry.

A nice recognition, Robin Shrum said, but “it’s not about the money.”

Her husband said people often ask them, “Is that real?” when they see the pumpkins and even honk or give a thumbs-up signal on their way to or from the fair.

The Shrums have been growing pumpkins since the early 2000s after Robin Shrum bought her husband books on how to grow pumpkins.

Each year, he said, they begin planting their pumpkins in May. These pumpkins require 250 gallons of water per day in August when they are at their peak growing spurt. They can grow about 30-50 pounds per day.

Robin Shrum holds a blue ribbon she won at the Virginia State Fair for the prettiest pumpkin. The 512-pound pumpkin placed fourth in the state for overall size and is on display at the governor's mansion in Richmond. Courtesy photo

“First they start out as marble sized under the flower. Then at a week old, it’s bowling ball size, and after 30 days it’s a size of a beach ball,” he said.

Pumpkins grow best in 80-degree weather, he said, and should be protected from cold nights.

“Barry covers them at night to keep them warm,” his wife said.

To care for his pumpkins, he uses fish, seaweed and liquid fertilizers, along with three different fungicides and insecticides.

Robin Shrum said, “A lot of it has to do with the weather and the luck with the bugs and the disease.”

Seed genetics play a big role in pumpkin growing as well, the Shrums said. People buy and sell seeds all over the country in hopes of having a good genetic line from their pumpkin.

Barry Shrum’s pumpkin will be displayed at Halloween for children to take pictures with, and then it will be transported to an elementary school.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or