Over eight days, nearly 4,000 students from throughout the area tour the Co-op's Pumpkin Patch. Each group of students gets to hear a talk about some aspect of organic farming. This year's topic focused on the importance of bees in the life cycle of pumpkin plants and other food crops. Students learned about pollination and the different types of bees that are found in the local area. Each year has a different theme and for some schools this is the only field trip they can afford to take all year. The Co-op's Pumpkin Patch is at the Arcata Bottoms location of Warren Creek Farm on Mad River Road. Paul and Carla Giuntoli own the farm, which has been growing produce for the community for close to 25 years.
The North Coast Co-op partners with and pays for the pumpkins from Warren Creek Farm to provide a farm experience for young people, as well as educate them about where food comes from and organic farming. In addition, staff from both stores help out on the grounds with pumpkin purchases, directing traffic at the farm, and crowd maintenance. The entire program is organized in house by two Co-op employees. This includes coordinating the school visits throughout the morning, working with the farm before the growing seasons begins, creating the curriculum, and organizing volunteers and staff.
Our objective is to provide a farm experience for young people via educational field trips. We educate them about where food comes from and organic farming.
This program is in its 27th year and each year it has grown. We reach 4,000 students from 40 different school in our county. For many schools it's the only field trip they can afford to take each year. There are adult Co-op members who have fond memories of going to the pumpkin patch and now they watch their children attend each year. With a reach of 4,000 children in our community learning about everything from organic farming to pollination it's a huge win for those in attendance. The parents and teachers rave about the program each year. Each student leaves with a free pumpkin from the patch. The Co-op pays for and donates the pumpkins. In addition, we provide snacks and water.
The Pumpkin Patch program has been going strong since 1986. When you see the faces of the kids who may be on their first field trip or have never been to a farm, it's gratifying. They learn about farming in a fun environment and they have a great experience. Kelli Reese, General Manager
"The field trip gives the students a chance to see what they are learning about in class. They understand it, they see it, they touch it, they feel it." Sandra Poston Fieldbrook Elementary School teacher