It all started out as small talk, then as competition. Eight years later, Christy Harp holds a new record for growing the largest pumpkin and bragging rights over her husband, Nick, for at least one year. Christy’s pumpkin — an Atlantic giant pumpkin — won first place at the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers annual weigh-off.

It all started out as small talk, then as competition.

Eight years later, Christy Harp holds a new record for growing the largest pumpkin and bragging rights over her husband, Nick, for at least one year.

Christy’s pumpkin — an Atlantic giant pumpkin — won first place at the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers annual weigh-off, held Saturday in Canfield.

She won $2,500 and set the growers group's world record with her whopping 1,725-pound pumpkin.

The challenge

The couple, married for three years, met as students at the University of Akron. Early on, Christy said she mentioned she once grew a 95-pound pumpkin in the eighth grade.

“He said he did, too, but I didn’t believe him,” Christy said with a laugh. “He pulled out a picture. I said, ‘We should have a competition.’ ”

Christy, 27, grew up as the third generation of her family on a farm in Jackson Township. She graduated from Jackson High School, where she now teaches math and coaches cross country.

She lives near her parents and grandparents and, all together, they have about 45 acres where they can grow pumpkins.

Nick, 26, also grew up with a family of gardeners. A St. Vincent-St. Mary High School graduate, he works as a chemical engineer at Goodrich in Green by day.

“By night, he’s out there in the fields till 1 a.m. watering. He has a headlamp that he wears,” said Christy’s mom, Pam Dieffenbacher.

Last year, Nick beat Christy by 200 pounds with a 1,081-pounder.

“I wanted revenge,” she said.

Although it is all in good fun and there are no secrets between them, the pair don’t garden together.

“I prefer not to be in the patch at the same time as him,” said Christy, who claims the two argue too much. “Literally, we have a line of plywood down the middle and we don’t cross it. He doesn’t approve of my methods and I don’t approve of his.”

“I’m going to have to start,” answered Nick to that, laughing.

Nick claims that, as a teacher, Christy has the summer months to pay special attention to her crop.

“I think she talks to them, or sings to them, or hugs them,” he joked.

Nick also won their first competition, but Christy has won the majority in between.

Sharing the wealth

According to Alan Gibson of Salem, the OVGPG association president, Christy’s entry Saturday topped the 1,689-pound record-holder grown in 2007 by Joe Jutras of North Scituate, R.I.

Ohio Valley members — and pumpkin growers across the country — keep things friendly in their hobby, often sharing growing tips and seeds and holding seminars to induce new members to give it a try.

In fact, Jutras has become a friend to the Harps, and Christy’s record-topper was grown from one of his seeds, sort of a first cousin to the 2007 winner, as Nick explained it. Gibson said members suspected Harp might have something special this year but weren’t certain until the massive pumpkin was hoisted onto the scale. Only then was it clear a world record had been toppled.

“She got hoisted on everybody’s shoulders in celebration,” Gibson said.

Until then, the pumpkin was kept under wraps at her parents’ house.

“The fear of any giant pumpkin grower is that some kid will come and destroy it with a baseball bat,” said Christy.

What's next?

The couple will take the last one of their seven giant pumpkins to a festival this weekend near Columbus. Their entry will weigh “only” around 900 pounds.

So why bother?

“Just to have fun,” said Nick. “You get a free shirt, free lunch and you get to see everyone.”

As for the record-holder, now sitting tight in a cool, dry, secret location, Christy hopes it will get the opportunity to do Broadway. Or more accurately, to meet Al Roker on the “Today” show and sit on Times Square throughout Halloween.

The seeds, she said, will be dried and given out free to whoever asks for them. Pumpkin growers will send them bubble wrap and stamped envelopes.

“Nick predicts the first bubble wrap will arrive by Wednesday,” said Christy.

The only question now is how long Harp’s record will stand. The state’s most renowned pumpkin show is slated for later this month at the Circleville Pumpkin show.

And rumor has it, one of famed growers there, Bob Leggitt, may have one in the 1,700-pound range, Gibson said.

If her record stands, she will receive another $2,000.

Nick, by the way, earned some bragging rights of his own. He grew a 7.18-pound tomato — a state record.

On the Web:

For more information, visit the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers at www.ovgpg.com. For information on growing large pumpkins, go to bigpumpkins.com.

The Repository