Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Venetucci Farms bursting with pumpkins a year after water issues left its patch barren

October 7, 2017 Updated: October 7, 2017 at 7:57 pm
0
Caption +
The decades old tradition of school children picking out their pumpkins is back this year at the Venetucci Farm after a year without pumpkins. Students from Pikes Peak Elementary School in District 2 run through rows of pumpkins on the way to picking out the perfect pumpkin on Thursday, October 5, 2017. Last year, a severe summer hailstorm coupled with water contamination issues resulted in a pumpkin-less year for the beloved farm. Since last year, produce samples have been sent to a certified lab in Canada and researchers at the Colorado School of Mines and UCCS, according to a press release sent from the farm in August. After reviewing the data on produce residue levels, the state epidemiologist confirmed that "the identified levels were well below the health screening levels for fruits and vegetables". In the 1950's, farmer Nick Venetucci started the tradition of giving away pumpkins to school children. Since then, millions have been given away. Once before there was a year without pumpkins, In 2002, a severe drought resulted in no pumpkins. Pumpkins can be bought by the public this Saturday, October 7 from 12 a.m. to 3 p.m and Saturday, October 14, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A local non-profit, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, keeps the Venetucci tradition alive. Venetucci died in 2004 and there is a statue to honor him adjacent to the Pioneers Museum. Photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette

One year after water contamination issues and a severe summer hailstorm left Venetucci Farm pumpkin-less, their patch is now bursting with healthy pumpkins ready for carving.

The farm's manager Patrick Hamilton estimates that the patch yielded upwards of 15,000 pumpkins, more than he has seen in a while.

"We have more pumpkins than we've had in the last couple of years," Hamilton said. He explained that the consistent rain throughout July and into August helped to nourish pumpkins farther from the farm's irrigation source.

Those pumpkins are healthy, too, one year after the Environmental Protection Agency found inadvisable amounts of perfluorinated compounds, or PFCS, in Widefield aquifer wells Venetucci uses for irrigation. The farm temporarily suspended all operations in July 2016.

After, the farm sent produce samples to a certified lab in Canada and researchers at the Colorado School of Mines and University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, according to a news release. The state epidemiologist confirmed that "the identified levels were well below the health screening levels for fruits and vegetables."

The community showed its faith in Venetucci's rebound from last year's perils this week. By 1 p.m. Saturday, 4,000 pumpkins had been picked. Some had been taken home Thursday and Friday by students from school districts across the city - a part of the farm's 65-year-old tradition of giving schoolkids pumpkins from the patch for free. The rest were taken by the dozens of families that meandered through the farm's patch Saturday to find the perfect pumpkin.

Hamilton and the farm's co-manager, Susan Gordon, see the pumpkin patch events as an opportunity for the community to learn about the work required to grow the food on their plates.

"We've lost that connection to our food and the land and the farmers who grow the food," Gordon said. "An important piece of this is that we teach people about our history and bring into the future and talk about how critical local farming and agriculture is to the health of our community."

More pumpkins will be available for another Pumpkins for Kids Giveaway this week and another public day Saturday, Oct. 14.

Pumpkins are 50 cents per pound during Saturday's public pumpkin patch day. Proceeds go to regular farm operations.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

Some news is free.
Exceptional journalism takes time, effort and your support.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.