Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Austin’s Pumpkin Field Economy – Axios Austin

When Abel Ponce made a nimble three-point turn in his 18-wheeler at a narrow, oak-lined intersection in South Austin on Sunday afternoon – the final maneuver in a 16-hour drive from Farmington, New Mexico – was a group of more than three dozen volunteers gathered to unload his precious cargo: pumpkins.

Why it matters: Delays and costs associated with setting up a pumpkin patch at an Austin church this year offer a glimpse into an economy marked by logistics and inflation challenges.

Christ Lutheran Church uses its charming annual pumpkin patch to raise money for a good cause.

  • This year, proceeds will go to Water to Thrive, an Austin-based, religious-minded nonprofit that builds water wells in rural parts of Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania.

But at Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers, the company that sells millions of New Mexico pumpkins, delivery bottlenecks caused shipments to cost 30-50% more than normal – and were delayed, says Janice Hamby, one of the company’s owners, Axios.

  • A truck to Texas that could carry 3,000 pumpkins cost $ 1,800 a year before the pandemic; now it runs for $ 3,000.
  • Farmington workers, many of whom are members of the Navajo Nation, are paid an average of $ 13.57 an hour – an increase of about $ 1.50 an hour from the previous year.

Yes but: At least Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers has quite a number of customers.

  • Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, Christ Lutheran canceled his patch.
  • Across the country, the number of pumpkin patch fundraisers has fallen from the usual 900 to 515 communities.

Plagued by the pandemic Like so many churches, Christian Lutheran has now dropped to 70 regular Sunday worshipers, a drop of at least 110 before the pandemic.

  • “We lost many members, especially families, to fill their time with something else,” Church Pastor John Stennfeld told Axios.
  • Christ Lutheran cut his pumpkin patch by at least a week because church leaders weren’t sure they would have enough volunteers to dump pumpkins and oversee the operation – a third of 2019 volunteers no longer attend church regularly.
  • “We felt a void in our community,” said Stennfeld, adding that he wanted to make sure that there was at least some kind of pumpkin patch.

The cost per pumpkin – small “spookies” still cost around $ 3 each, large balls cost around $ 35 – remains the same as in the years before the pandemic, but only because Pumpkin Patch wants to keep its customers happy, says Hamby .

  • But the supply chain problems corrupting the nation are felt in the patch.
  • 48 hours delay in transporting the pumpkins – the church was hoping they would arrive last Thursday or Friday – means that the church lost a precious weekend with its pumpkin sales.
  • According to Jordan Boessling, the Church’s minister for creative communications and community connections, sales in 2019 were around $ 9,000 for 1,100 pumpkins – but could be far less this year as the church has about 500 pumpkins on sale during its ordered in a shorter time window.

Game Status: At the end of Sunday everyone seemed really happy. Happy cardboard pumpkins were pasted on by the Darlins ghost group from the University of Texas. Children began to peek out of the jack-o’-lantern clippings. Hay was put down from the wheelbarrow. The weather was pleasant as it could be. And the pumpkins practically glowed a beautiful orange.

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