First Presbyterian Church Pumpkin Patch Continues to be a Favorite
Nothing says fall like an old-fashioned pumpkin patch, and pumpkins are big business these days. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, nearly 65,900 acres of pumpkins were harvested in the United States in 2018, producing more than 1.5 billion pounds of usable pumpkins with more than 2 billion produced overall.
Libby’s (owned by Nestlé Company) has almost 90 percent of the North American market for canned pumpkin, with 90 percent of it sold in only four months — from October to January.
The USDA Economic Research Service reports that the demand for fresh specialty pumpkins continues to expand as consumers look for new and interesting variations. According to the National Retail Federation, in 2019 Americans are expected to spend $377.23 million on pumpkins for carving into jack-o-lanterns.
Just as an aside, Halloween 2019 is expected to be an expensive day with predictions of total Halloween spending to reach a record of $8.8 billion.
Locally, I feel one of the best places to buy a pumpkin is at First Presbyterian’s Church’s Pumpkin Patch on Claiborne Avenue. Now in its 19th year, it’s a family tradition for many New Orleanians.
The pumpkins are grown on Navajo land in the Four Corners area of New Mexico and supplied by Pumpkins USA, a nonprofit partnership of 1,300 churches nationally. They are provided on consignment — churches only pay for the pumpkins they sell, ensuring that they never take a loss on the patch.
A few weeks ago, the church received 2,456 pumpkins in a huge selection of sizes, shapes, textures and colors, including ornamental gourds and decorative corn.
James Schutt, age 7, and his sister Cicely, age 10, were there to help unload the pumpkins when they arrived. The family, former church members, have been volunteering for years and enjoy continuing the tradition.
“I unloaded a bunch of them and some of them were pretty heavy,” James said.
First Presbyterian expects its little urban pumpkin patch will make around $12,000 in profit this year. A tiny pumpkin sells for .50, a huge pumpkin is $50, and a basketball-size pumpkin is usually around $10.
“It’s a great event,” said Chris Roberts, the church’s Pumpkin Patch chair. “The church and its neighbors look forward to it every year and people come from all around the city. We’ve seen kids come here, grow up and get married and now they bring their kids here.”
Half of the proceeds go to the church and the other half go to “Program of Hope,” the church’s holistic ministry that responds to a variety of needs of people without permanent housing. Donations of clothing, toiletries and non-perishable food items are also being accepted at the pumpkin patch.
“I went through the Program of Hope and I wanted to give back because the program and the church have done so much for me,” said David Rabinowitz, a 10-year pumpkin patch volunteer. “You know Will Smith the movie star brought his kids here a few years back.”
Drawn by what they say are the patch’s diverse selection, Kara and Tyler Cocek are proud returning customers.
“I like the fact that they have white pumpkins,” said Kara Cocek. “Our front door is orange so the white ones just look better, they don’t clash. We’d much rather buy from [the church] than a big store.”
Going to this pumpkin patch clicks a lot of boxes: a good pumpkin selection, a worthwhile cause, an environment that’s inviting to romping children, and oh so many picturesque opportunities to snap adorable autumnal photos.
First Presbyterian Pumpkin Patch
5401 S. Claiborne Ave.
Monday – Friday 3-7 p.m.
Saturday – 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sunday – 1-7 p.m.