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Pumpkin carving at the State Fair?  Really?  If you stop by to see Farmer Mike, you will realize (like I did), that it’s time to step up your pumpkin carving game!  Our annual trip to the State Fair of Texas is always one of my favorite adventures!  This year, we saw several things we had never seen before.  One of my favorites was Farmer Mike and his giant pumpkins that he carves!

I’m not talking about carving a typical pumpkin face with triangle eyes, a triangle nose, and a crooked mouth, I’m talking real artwork!  Amazing carvings that are so detailed and complicated, that I can’t imagine how long it must take him to complete one of his works of art.

If you’re like me, pumpkin carving is very basic.  Here at my house, we buy the little kits with a few carving tools and some stencils.


Here they are in the planning stages! First step – draw the face that you want your pumpkin to have, then start carving!

After many failed attempts at stencils, we typically just draw a cool face on our pumpkin with a Sharpie, then carefully cut it out with our little carving tools.  However, not everyone is as simple as we are in my household when it comes to pumpkin carving.

Find Great Ideas on Pinterest

If you look on Pinterest, you will see thousands of free stencils, tools, and ideas for how to have the coolest and creepiest pumpkins on the block.  I mean, there are people who use little drills and spend hours working on minute details to get their pumpkins carved just so.  We are doing good just to get all the goop out of the pumpkin, a couple of eyes cut into it, and a candle inside to light it up.

Push Pin Pumpkin Decorating Kits?

In the last few years, we have discovered the pumpkin decorating kits that are similar to the old Mr. Potato Head game.  You get a bag of parts – funny eyes, ears, noses, a mouth, and sometimes some funny wings or something.

Extreme Pumpkin Carving with Farmer Mike

See…with the push pin kits, you don’t even have to scoop the goop out! Easy and no mess!!!

You can also get kits from Disney so your pumpkin can look like a Cinderella carriage, or any of the well-known Disney characters.  All you do is stick the pieces into the pumpkin – no carving necessary, and there you have it.  A decorated pumpkin without the goopy mess.

But really, where’s the fun in that?  Right?  One of my favorite parts is snapping pictures of my kids faces when they first reach in to scoop out the pumpkin goop!  It’s priceless.  And then, watching them pull out the seeds so we can bake them later.  But that only lasts for a little while, so I always have a few of the push-pin decorating kits on hand so we can have several decorated pumpkins on our porch for the big day!

Who is Farmer Mike?

So…back to Farmer Mike and his amazing pumpkin carving skills!  Farmer Mike’s real name is Mike Valladao.  According to Wikipedia, he goes by Farmer Mike and specializes in carving giant pumpkins that range in weight from 100 pounds to about a half ton.  You can find Farmer Mike at all kinds of events such as the State Fair of Texas, the San Diego Zoo, and many other places including some hotels and casinos.

His trademark outfit is his orange overalls that he always wears with his white hat while he is carving pumpkins at various events.  He has appeared on the Tonight Show and has been featured in Boys’ Life Magazine and The Old Farmer’s Almanac!

Extreme Pumpkin Carving with Farmer Mike

Here’s Farmer Mike in his crazy orange overalls starting on a new project at the State Fair of Texas!

Farmer Mike’s method of carving is known as “Pumpkin Carving in the Round.”  This method takes advantage of the really thick rind you find on giant pumpkins.  It creates a three-dimensional effect on the carvings.  Can you believe that he does most of his carving with a Buck knife??

He carves all kinds of things including:  animals, movie characters, dragons, landmarks, whimsical faces, and he’s been know to do caricatures of presidential candidates!  I personally would love to see one of Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton!  How about you???

Can you imagine being able to carve something like this from a pumpkin? Amazing!

Can you imagine being able to carve something like this from a pumpkin? Amazing!

When reading up on Farmer Mike and wondering how he became interested in carving giant pumpkins, I read that back in 1984, he was at a pumpkin festival in California called Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival.  This is where he saw a giant pumpkin weighing in at 612 pounds!

Wow.  Can you imagine having a pumpkin like that sitting on your front porch for Halloween?  No way the crazy kids sneaking around smashing pumpkins would be able to smash this one!

Anyway…Farmer Mike contacted a pumpkin farmer and asked for some seeds.  He planted the seeds, and the following year, Mike had several very large Atlantic Giant pumpkins!  Not knowing what to do with them, he decided to carve one.

It didn’t take long for people to learn about his carving talents, and a few years later, he went back to the Half Mood Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival as an official pumpkin carver!  He has now been doing this for over 20 years!

The Pumpkin Picasso?

In 1997, an article in the San Francisco Examiner referred to Mike as the “Pumpkin Picasso.”  You can read about the article on the San Francisco Gate Website if you want some more information on Farmer Mike!

And just when I thought I’d found all I could about Farmer Mike, I found something else…  He has authored and illustrated a children’s book called Farmer Mike Grows Giant Pumpkins!  A man of many talents…

Now…I haven’t read this book, but it sure looks cute.  And I think I’ll need to order one since we spent some time with him at the State Fair this year.  I’m hoping that his book has some cute pictures of carved pumpkins in it – maybe I can get some good ideas of what to carve!

Pumpkin Carving on Live with Kelly?

Okay…as I was looking for articles on how to up my pumpkin carving game, I had Live with Kelly on in the background.  Guess what one of her topics for this particular show was!  You guessed it…Extreme Pumpkin Carving with a man named Tom Nardone.

Apparently, Farmer Mike isn’t the only one carving crazy big pumpkins.  So…I turned up the volume and watched what Tom Nardone had to say about “extreme pumpkin carving.”  You can see him in the YouTube Video below.

Who is Tom Nardone?

Now I have to say I’m impressed with Tom Nardone, but he’s no Farmer Mike.  But what I like about this guy is that these are pumpkins that (with a little extra effort) I could probably carve!  And if I mention power tools to my kids, they’d be all over it!

Zach and Morgan really like the little kid-friendly battery powered pumpkin carving saw that I let them use each year, but they always complain that the blades bend because it’s not strong enough to cut through a pumpkin.  They’re right, but because it’s so terrible, no one will saw off a finger by mistake!

If you like the pumpkins Tom Nardone showed on the Live with Kelly clip, then you should check out his website.  You can find him and all his information on the Extreme Pumpkins Website.  While I was looking around on his website, I saw a great article called How To Carve Pumpkins.


Here’s Zach with his little electric saw.  Cutting just to cut!

It has a lot of good information such as:  which tools to use, how to use stencils, and a link to some free pumpkin patterns and stencils you can print and use.

So there you have it.  I’ve admitted to how terrible I am at carving pumpkins, but this year will be better.  I was inspired by Farmer Mike, and I’d really like to step up my game a bit this year.  However, as you can see from all the pictures in this post, it is my husband, Mark who does most of the carving!

I wonder how he’ll feel about using his very expensive power tools to carve pumpkins?  Hmmmm….  Goodluck with your pumpkin carving.  Send me some pictures if you have some that turn out the way you planned for them to!  Happy Halloween everyone.  Until next time…


Enjoy some of the pictures below in the Media Gallery from the State Fair and Halloween’s past!  So many fun memories caring pumpkins…