You are currently viewing School pumpkin patch thefts threaten festival
The kids at Turua School are all set for this year’s Giant Pumpkin Festival. Photo: SUPPLIED

School pumpkin patch thefts threaten festival

Ongoing thefts in Turua School’s garden have disrupted learning, affected its upcoming Giant Pumpkin Festival, and frustrated staff and children alike.  

Estelle McCoid, teacher aide and the school’s Garden to Table programme specialist, said several items had been stolen from the school grounds over the past few weeks, including an expensive donated hose and other equipment. The real gut-punch though, was the missing produce, grown and tended to by the students themselves and intended for use in the school’s cooking curriculum. 

“[I was] saddened to find that our nearly ready pumpkins were all gone, and our kumara beds had been dug through. Our large marrow that we were measuring and observing to see how big it could grow was also picked but left behind,” Estelle said. 

“The children and staff work really hard to look after the garden, and it’s awesome that our kids have the opportunity to learn these life skills.” 

Estelle said she had noticed some missing things in the last few months, but there was nothing overt until the beginning of March. As well as the pumpkins and kumara, she said some cabbages, leeks, eggplants, onions, beetroot, and even some potted seedlings had disappeared. 

“Even since that [Facebook] post. On Monday afternoon between 4pm and 4.30pm someone came and stripped the apple tree and also had another go at the kumara… Boy, it’s frustrating,” she said. 

“The kids are pretty miffed, but the worst thing is that one of the things we do is sell our produce at the festival, and we literally have nothing to sell now, at all.” 

The school’s apple tree was stripped of its fruit, upsetting gardening students. Photo: SUPPLIED

Luckily, some forward planning means the cooking classes can still go ahead, for now. 

“We’ve fortunately got quite a bit of stuff in the freezer… During the school holidays I was regularly coming in and picking stuff and freezing it, or making preserves and stuff. So there should be enough to carry on with.” 

The thefts came just weeks before the school’s annual Giant Pumpkin Festival fundraiser event, scheduled for March 23. 

The festival is going ahead as planned, and Estelle urged the community to come along and help support the school – some of the funds raised will now go towards replacing garden equipment and purchasing a security camera. 

“There’s a couple of rides that we haven’t had in the past, something a bit different,” Estelle said. 

“We thought, why not change it up a little bit, add a few things here and there and hope for the best.” 

The entertainment will be rounded out with a pumpkin-themed art display from each classroom, and there will be plenty to buy with quick-fire raffles, candyfloss, food, and a seedling stall all on offer. 

The competitions will also be hotly contested this year. Along with the pumpkin and other large vegetable weigh-ins, there is also a scarecrow decorating competition, open to groups and individuals; and a gumboot decorating competition for anyone from preschoolers through to adults.

And of course no one will go hungry with the school’s Garden to Table team on duty. 

“We’ve gotta have the world-famous-in-Turua pumpkin soup and cheese rolls. The cheese rolls are really popular, it’s nuts actually. We can never make enough.” 

DETAILS: The Giant Pumpkin Festival, March 23 from 11am at Turua School. Competition registrations are between 9.30am and 11am.