Pumpkin panic: Central Texans have trouble finding Halloween pumpkins

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) There are fewer pumpkins for purchase this year, according to some pumpkin-panicking Central Texans.

(Photo by Rissa Shaw)

Weather changes elsewhere might explain why some people haven't seen as many pumpkins locally.

Experts aren't calling it a pumpkin shortage, however, they say droughts and freezes around the country could be having a trickle-down effect on Halloween in Central Texas, an area which typically doesn't grow pumpkins and imports them from other states.

Central Christian Church in Waco fills its patch with thousands pumpkins grown on more than 1,1000 acres of land at a Navajo Indian reservation in Farmington, New Mex.

"They experienced, in the middle of October, the worst freeze they've had in the 27 years they've been growing pumpkins out there," said Kristin Jack, pumpkin patch coordinator and Minister to Families at Central Christian Church. "They said they have over 300 acres of frozen pumpkins that they weren't able to ship out."

More than 300 of the 1,000 churches and non-profits all over the country supplied by the farm in Farmington, didn't get a single pumpkin.

"That is just heartbreaking to know that all of the ministries the pumpkin patch supports all over the country, a lot of people missed out on that this year," said Jack.

Jack had the opportunity to travel to Farmington for three days and shadow the owner to learn more about pumpkin harvest.

"If pumpkins have the chance to thaw out in field, then they can recover," said Jack. "But this freeze was four or five days long and well below freezing, the core samples were rotted, so they were not able to be sent out to partners."

However, Central Christian lucked-out and still had two-and-a-half semis full of pumpkins, about 15,000 total, delivered in two shipments.

"We are definitely the largest pumpkin patch in the Waco area," said Jack.

People in the Waco-area were so in need of pumpkins they day before Halloween, they went out during downpours to get to the gourds.

"We're late but we just want to carve some pumpkins," said Cynthia Jo.

After striking out everywhere else, the Baylor student went to the pumpkin patch at Central Christian.

"I've been to HEB, Walmart, even tried Lowe's, I heard on Google that that's there, but we can't find pumpkins anywhere," said Jo. "I'm so happy that there are some here!"

Jack says she's been hearing an increasing amount of similar comments from other customers this year.

"It does seem to be a lot more accentuated this year, and it could be because other farms experienced a freeze much like our farm in New Mexico did," said Jack.

A spokesperson for H-E-B told KWTX Wednesday, some stores are running low, but they wouldn't call it a pumpkin shortage because it's the end of the season and "whatever's left is what they got."

Central Christian will try to sell it's remaining pumpkins Thursday (Halloween) from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the church, 4901 Lake Shore Dr., in Waco.

They have sold out a time or two before, but any pumpkins that don't sell will be donated to the Cameron Park Zoo for the animals to enjoy.

Wednesday's cold and rainy weather would typically put the church behind and the patch would shutdown for the day, however, with so many people desperate for pumpkins this year, they decided to stick it out and stay open.

"We're happy that we can provide that," said Jack.

This is the 14th year of the church's pumpkin patch, a way to raise money for the congregation's ministries and become a community tradition.

"It's more than a pumpkin patch," said Jack. "It's an opportunity for families to create Fall memories, too, we love being a part of that."