Fall brings with it all things pumpkin, and Grace Network’s Pumpkin Patch is filled with the fruity delight most closely associated with the season, as more than 50 volunteers gathered to unload the pumpkins and set up Grace Network’s 15th annual Pumpkin Patch at First Baptist Church Martinsville.
Tracy Hinchcliff, executive director, said this year there are nearly 1,500 bulk pumpkins and 1,500 small pumpkins and gourds.
Hinchcliff is excited to again offer an opportunity to the community that is seldom seen in the area.
“We just get lots of feedback. As a matter of fact, there’s not a lot of pumpkin patches close in town and around Henry County, so this just really brings a service. Not only does selling them help Grace Network, but it’s also a community effort,” she said.
As for the response, Hinchcliff said many visitors enjoy visiting the pumpkin patch.
“People love to come out and take pictures, they bring their dogs to take pictures. It’s just fun for little children to run around in a pumpkin patch. So many of us grew up with that environment, and it’s just a real gift to the community to be able to provide this,” she said.
Grace Network is particularly excited about the source of its pumpkins, which has been the same each year they have hosted the event. The organization sources its pumpkins from the North Carolina-based Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers, which gets its pumpkins from the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico.
This offers an opportunity for the residents of the reservation, who are often impoverished, to have jobs and a source of income, Hinchcliff said.
“Because the growing environment of the East Coast was very volatile and unpredictable, (Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers) were able to search out and find the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. They found it was a perfect place to grow pumpkins,” Hinchcliff said.
“The ground was fertile, the climate was right. It was a perfect growing ground. And so, they negotiated with the Navajo Reservation, and they lease the land that they grow the pumpkins on from them, along with hiring the Navajo Reservation population to grow and harvest the pumpkins.”
Hinchcliff believes this helps spread the mission of Grace Network beyond just the immediate area. “They are benefiting, and our community is benefiting,” she said.
Grace Network, which has been in operation for 16 years, hosts the pumpkin patch as a fundraiser. Over the last 14 years, it has raised $66,000 through the event. The proceeds are then used to help those in the community who are in need, especially with paying bills and putting food on the table.
“We help those that are facing eviction. We help those that are facing utility cut off, whether it’s electricity or water or gas, and we also, because of crisis, many people may be able to pay their bills but maybe not have enough money to feed their family. So, we also have a Food Pantry to help in those crisis situations,” Hinchcliff said.
She said one of the things she cherishes is that the pumpkin patch gives the community a chance to have fun while also helping those around them.
“It’s a perfect blend of community activities that we can all come together for the good of the community,” she said.
The first day of operation for this year’s Pumpkin Patch was Sept. 24. It will run until Oct. 31, and is open Monday through Friday, from 1 to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. It is located at First Baptist Church Martinsville, 23 Starling Avenue.