Thanks to summer rains that soaked coastal Georgia over the summer, pumpkins are likely to be a little harder to come by. But organizers of the annual Pumpkin Patch in J.F. Gregory Park are hoping the event will go unscathed as they plan for another popular year for the round orange gourds.
The Richmond Hill Garden Club has put on the Pumpkin Patch for 13 years now, delighting Bryan County guests with games, hay bales and plenty of pumpkins. This year’s patch is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 5 in the park complete with games for children, a bake sale and an assortment of hay bales and fall flowers for sale — as well as pumpkins, of course.
“I’ve been doing this for 18 years, and this is the worst year I’ve ever seen for pumpkins and corn,” said Charlie Stokes, owner of the Savannah Farmers Market and the official pumpkin supplier for the Richmond Hill Garden Club. “I’ve talked to farmers who said this is the worst year they’ve seen in all their lives.”
Pumpkins don’t actually grow in Georgia as the climate here is too humid and warm compared to the temperate climates they tend to thrive in, Stokes said. Still, rain up and down the East Coast has caused them to bloat in size, mature too early and rot before farmers can even place their orders.
This year, Stokes was forced to raise his prices exponentially on corn — which is grown in Georgia and has also suffered terrible loss, he said — and pumpkins.
But Laurie Pommerenck who organizes the annual Pumpkin Patch for the Richmond Hill Garden Club, said she is undeterred. She bought the same amount of pumpkins, 500, and plans to sell them for the same price the club has every year.
“We don’t change our price, but we do end up paying a little more,” laughed Pommerenck. “Mr. Stokes gives us any breaks he can because he does understand that we’re a nonprofit. The cost definitely depends on the weather and because of that I never know until right before I get them how much it’s going to cost us.”
The proceeds from sales at the Pumpkin Patch are funneled back into the operation of the Richmond Hill Garden Club, whose members plant and donate gardens throughout the city. Pommerenck referred to them as the “G-Team,” noting in the past they’ve donated a garden to Henderson Park, the Richmond Hill Library, Magnolia Manor on the Coast and even Fort McAllister State Historic Park.
The Pumpkin Patch also funds the club’s new Green Thumb program that introduces children to gardening and will raise money for a scholarship for a college-bound Richmond Hill High School student interested in agriculture.
Pommerenck said that while the funds raised by the Pumpkin Patch help keep the garden club afloat during the year, the members are most excited about seeing the children’s faces when they catch sight of all the pumpkins.
“As a matter of fact, we have kids that came with their parents to the Pumpkin Patch years ago and are now bringing their children to the see the pumpkins because they had such good memories,” Pommerenck said. “Each year we like to set up an area for photos and people just love to put dress their little ones up in costumes and pose them in the patch.”