The beginning of fall brings colorful leaves, cooler temperatures and that ubiquitous orange fruit known as the pumpkin.
For several local churches the pumpkin patch has become an annual tradition, an opportunity to invite the community in to enjoy browsing, picture taking and playing amid the many gourds.
Tyler’s First Christian Church and Lane’s Chapel United Methodist Church have pumpkin patches this year.
The former has had a pumpkin patch for at least 12 years and the latter is on its second year.
First Christian has more than 3,000 pumpkins, with prices from 50 cents to $30. Lane’s Chapel also has more than 3,000 pumpkins, with prices from 50 cents to $35.
Both churches partner with Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers, a business that provides pumpkins to more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations each year including churches, youth groups, Scouts, schools, habitat groups and more.
The company’s farming operations are based on the Navaho Nation in Farmington, New Mexico.
More than 700 Native Americans are employed during the harvest months of September and October, and the full-time off-season staff is entirely Native American, according to the Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers website.
Proceeds from the sales are split among the Navaho Nation farmers, Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers and the organizations that put on the pumpkin patches.
The Rev. Ginger Brandt at First Christian Church said the church uses its portion of the proceeds for causes identified by the youth and children’s ministries.
In the past, the monies have helped fund youth mission trips and paid for playgrounds at the church. The church also looks for ways to contribute to outside organizations that help people in need, the Rev. Brandt said.
Lane’s Chapel pumpkin patch coordinator Wayne Larson said proceeds from the church’s sales will support the missions in the community.
The Rev. Brandt said while churches have had a mixed relationship with Halloween and, at times, are unsure of how to embrace it, a pumpkin patch provides people with an opportunity to enjoy a harvest-themed event in a safe and family-friendly way.
“I think it helps you celebrate the season we’re in in a happy, uplifting way where there’s not a lot of controversy about pumpkins,” she said.
If you go
Who: First Christian Church
What: Pumpkin Patch
When: Noon to 7 p.m. Sunday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays through at least Oct. 30
Where: 4202 S. Broadway Ave., Tyler
Info: Cash, check and credit card accepted; trunk-or-treat from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Oct. 26.
Who: Lane’s Chapel
What: Pumpkin patch with train, games and picture-taking areas.
When: 11 a.m. to dusk Monday through Saturday; noon to dusk Sundays through Oct. 31.
Where: 8720 Old Jacksonville Highway, Tyler
Info: Cash, check and credit card accepted; trunk-or-treat from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 30.