Cal Poly Pomona’s annual Pumpkin Fest — a lively and family-friendly event filled with pumpkins, cornfields and farm animals — has been canceled for this fall, leaving AGRIscapes to work on delivery of local-grown pumpkins to community.
“We held off for as long as we could to make the announcement,” said AGRIscapes Outreach Director Craig Walters. “But at this point, there is no chance that we can prepare for the festival in time.”
With local health regulations prohibiting large public events, he knew that Pumpkin Fest needed to be canceled this fall. He also anticipated that enforcing social distancing rules during the event would be difficult.
Despite the cancellation of the festival, Walters and his team deliberated on ways to distribute nearly 30,000 pumpkins to the community. He explained that AGRIscapes plans to take a virtual approach to keep people engaged through various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Virtual events planned for this fall will include a pumpkin carving contest, along with live tutorials on how to create different foods made with pumpkins such as pumpkin pie, bread and soup.
“We still plan to sell the pumpkins this year,” Walters said. “However, we haven’t gotten the university’s approval on how people will be able to get their pumpkins in-person, besides the pumpkins being sold at the Farm Store and through our Farm Box program.”
Last month, AGRIscapes introduced a new program called Farm Box, where individuals can purchase a box of fresh vegetables grown on campus. After making the purchase, customers can receive their box through curbside pick-up on designated days and times. AGRIscapes will begin incorporating pumpkins in the Farm Box during the fall, according to Walters.
The Pumpkin Fest is a two-day event that occurs every October at the AGRIscapes Agricultural Outreach Center. For the past 27 years, the festival has attracted thousands of attendees with its the various activities such as visiting the pumpkin patch, taking a hayride, strolling through the cornfield maze, visiting the petting farm and purchasing produce and food from vendors.
According to Walters, approximately 35,000 people attended last year’s Pumpkin Fest during the first weekend.
Natalie Lopez, a third-year agricultural science student, started working with AGRIscapes last fall and shared the impacts of the Pumpkin Fest’s cancellation on the staff who helped prepare for the event.
“It’s sad that this year’s Pumpkin Fest was canceled because everyone at AGRIscapes works so hard to put this event together,” Lopez said. “Last year’s Pumpkin Fest was my first time working with AGRIscapes, and I enjoyed showing the farm to the children and seeing their smiles as they picked out their own pumpkin.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Lopez continues to work with AGRIscapes by tending the animals and managing the campus farm. She is also assisting the department on packing vegetables for the Farm Box.
“It’s a shame that many people are stuck inside of their homes and are unable to enjoy in-person events, but they will still be able to get Cal Poly Pomona grown pumpkins without the event,” Lopez said.
Fifth-year business student Andrew Whyte, who works at the Farm Store, shared his experience in selling vegetables at the farmer’s market booth during last year’s Pumpkin Fest.
“The pumpkin festival had to be where I got the most interactions from our customers,” Whyte said. “It feels very rewarding to see peoples’ faces light up with excitement when they see our produce.”
Nonetheless, Whyte is glad that the campus community will be able to receive pumpkins and continue to engage with the department through virtual events.