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Where Do All the Pumpkins Go?

To elephants, pies and shoots

Thousands of pumpkins are carried away to homes all across the country to be part of harvest festivals, decorations and Halloween Jack-o-lanterns.
    What happens to the pumpkins that never find a home?
    In Annapolis, the lawn of St. Martin’s Lutheran Church was swimming in pumpkins delivered by a semi-truck after a long journey from a tribal Indian farm in New Mexico. Selling those pumpkins over three weeks, Friends of the Lighthouse Shelter earned more than $26,000, donating $14,000 to the Lighthouse homeless shelter.
    Still, many pumpkins remained.
    “This year there was a lot of rot and waste, and a ton left over,” said Barbara Holch, who runs the shelter’s fall festival program.
    Anne Arundel Department of Social Services delivered a truckload of pumpkins — nearly 100 — for a Halloween party at Robin Wood Recreation Center. Local pig and goat farmers took what they needed for supplemental feed. Leftovers were abandoned to dumpsters.
    At Horsmon Farm in St. Leonard, leftovers were a smaller problem because of a crop diminished by summer’s drought. What was left goes to a local pork farmer or is thrown into the woods.
    Spider Hall Farm near the Patuxent River gives its extras a second life at Thanksgiving as pumpkin pies or decorations. Some are also sold for seeds to roast. Anything after that gets composted.
    The Washington National Zoo received 140 donated pumpkins from Trader Joe’s in Arlington the day after Halloween.
    “The trainers carve the pumpkins and fill them with the animals’ food,” Zoon said. “The gorillas get grapes, the sea lions get squid and the elephants get leaf-eater biscuits.”
    Kandula, the youngest elephant at 10 years old, had a ball tossing the pumpkins up with his trunk, then smashing them with his foot.
    Baltimore Maryland Zoo Director Jane Ballentine also uses pumpkins for props and entertainment at ZooBooo!
    “Our keepers and volunteers are very creative with the pumpkins, and the animals are highly entertaining to watch,” Ballentine said. “The hornbills and elephants love to destroy them.”
    As a last resort, you can shoot pumpkins. That’s what happened the Saturday after Halloween at Swann’s Farms in Owings.
    “Sandy killed sales early for us this year” Joe Swann said. “Everybody had water, batteries and hurricane supplies on their minds. Nobody was thinking pumpkins.”
    Swann’s had 500 leftover decorative pumpkins, even after fulfilling orders for local church groups and donating dozens to cattle farmers.
    The solution: a pumpkin shoot, announced by word-of-mouth, brought hunters, sportsmen, friends, family and neighbors out in droves.
    Even so, Swann’s has plenty of cooking pumpkins left for your Thanksgiving pies.