Deemed by many as the Pumpkin King, Howard Dill was born on July 22, 1934, living and working on the 90-acre farm which has been in the family for five generations located in Windsor, Nova Scotia. In 1976 at a Giant Pumpkin weigh-off in Circleville, OH, even though he didn’t win that year, Howard’s passion for giant pumpkins was set into overdrive. The winner in 1976 was Bob Ford, a rookie grower from Coatesville PA, who had crossed some Hungarian Mammoth Giants with Mammoth Chile cucurbits. Along with the new cross, he used a fertility program custom built for him by the founder of Peters Professional fertilizers using a 20-10-10 formula and managed an impressive 451 pounder setting a new world record that had stood since 1904.
The world record of 403 pounds in 1904 was set by William Warnock from Goderich, Ontario at the St Louis World’s Fair. Renny Seed Company then bought the pumpkin for just $10.00 and sold its seeds at three for 25 cents through Canada and the United States under the variety “Goderich Giant”. This is where Howard, who had grown pumpkins back into the 1950s, started to perfect his own variety. From 1973 to 1979 he cultivated the Mammoth Chile ( “Genuine Mammoth”) then Renie’s Giant seeds( “Goderich Giants”) breaking the world record in 1980 with 459 pounds and then again in 1981 at 493.5 pounds and it was a perfect example to set the standard for the copyrighted Dill’s Atlantic Giant. You see Howard wasn’t growing just for size like his competition, he wanted great color, shape, and size. Howard’s years spent on the farm and his father’s work greatly helped in creating the “Dill” variety. The genuine Mammoth had been cultivated by his father for thirty years and succeeded in producing pumpkins of 200 pounds. A quiet but serious man with only a seventh-grade education, Howard taught himself about plant genetics by reading gardening magazines. Also while previous growers. had mostly left pollination to the bees or by uncontrolled hand pollination, Howard isolated flowers and did his with a strict controlled cross hand pollination method.
Howard Dill passed away on May 20, 2008, due to liver cancer. but he lived to witness the world’s first 1,600-lb. pumpkin. He would have been shocked by today’s pumpkins. In 2016 the record was broken once again by Mathias Willemijns from Belgium with a monstrous fruit of 2624.6 pounds. These giants may not all be pretty and round but every competitive pumpkin grew for size since 1979 has some type of Howard Dill’s genetics. Today the Atlantic Giant variety is grown by over 10,000 serious growers and millions of backyard gardeners all over the world Howard’s wife Hilda Dill(Levy) and mother to their children.(Andrew, Danny, Maureen, and Diana) was born on September 1, 1941, and also passed from cancer on November 27, 2009
The family farm now ran by his son Danny Dill and his daughter Dana MacDonald, has over 5000 visitors a year and sells over 2000 pound of seeds. Seed packets are sold worldwide and come in 17 different languages
July 1, 2006, the Vancouver Sun listed 139 reasons to love this country of ours. Number 56 on the list was giant pumpkins, saying Howard Dill had a great idea.
Milking cows and gardening wasn’t Howard’s (Howie’s) only past times, his love of hockey and collecting hockey memorabilia was almost as great as his love for the giant fruits growing in his garden. Two rooms of his 125-year-old farmhouse are dedicated to hockey memorabilia, including more than 100 binders full of hockey cards. He would even amaze the greats of the sport on his knowledge of the game and its history, and the history of the game couldn’t be ignored at the Dill homestead just a 10-minute walk would bring you to Long Pond. After more than 50 years of controversy, the origins of the first hockey games in Canada were found to be played at Long Pond circa 1800. Long Pond when frozen it is nearly the dimensions of an NHL rink and is referred to by some as the “Cradle of Hockey”. Windsor maintains a claim it is the birthplace of hockey, based on a reference (in a novel by Thomas Haliburton) of boys from King’s Collegiate School playing “hurley”, on the frozen waters of ‘Long Pond’ adjacent to the school’s campus during the early 19th century.(WIKI)
Long pond was visited by the greats of the game and even the Stanley Cup made a special visit on March 30, 2010