One of my favorite community fundraising projects is our annual Branch Elementary Pumpkin Patch. We have been growing pumpkins as a fundraiser for the school since the late 1990s when my dad came up with the idea to raise money, to get people out to the farm and to be a good neighbor by supporting our local school.
Our family has a long history with Branch Elementary, dating to the days when my grandparents moved from Santa Maria to Arroyo Grande in the early 1950s. In those days it was a two room schoolhouse, and my father often expressed to me that he learned some of the most profound lessons of his life there. By the time my sister went to Branch in the late 70s, it was a more typical multi room school, but still a very special place because of its beautiful rural setting in the middle of a cow pasture overlooking the Arroyo Grande Valley all the way to the ocean. In addition to my dad, uncle and sister, both of my daughters and 5 of my cousins have attended Branch. It’s the smallest elementary school in our local Lucia Mar School District and recognized as a California Distinguished School.
The thing I love about the pumpkin patch is the opportunity for kids and their parents to come out to the farm and pick out their very own pumpkins and gourds. It’s also the second biggest fundraiser for the school as all proceeds from the sales benefit the school. Finally, it’s a collaborative effort between Talley Farms and Santa Maria Seed, who donates all the seed for our amazing array of pumpkins and gourds.
There are many places to buy pumpkins in our area but I encourage those who live locally to buy their pumpkins right here. The pumpkin patch is open every weekend in October. If you can’t make it on the weekend, pumpkins are available for sale every day in the tasting room. As my daughter Olivia pointed back when she was a first grader at Branch, “where else can you pick out a pumpkin and taste wine at the same time?”