Over the last decade, hundreds of thousands of pounds of pumpkins have passed through the property of one Lincoln County church, signifying the start of the fall season while simultaneously bringing smiles to people of all ages.
Boger City United Methodist received a truckload of more than 46,000 pounds of pumpkins of all sizes earlier this month.
Local Boy Scouts, in cooperation with at least 40 other church members, volunteered for more than two hours to unload the truck, forming a line and handing off pumpkins one at a time.
Pastor Eric Reece, new to Boger City United Methodist this year, had the honor of removing the first pumpkin, according to Lincolnton resident and Methodist Men’s group member Don Ballard.
Young children even contributed to the special day by painting faces and other designs on a portion of the mini-sized pumpkins.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Ballard said, “because they (children) are our future.”
Ballard volunteers at the patch each year, selling pumpkins alongside his wife Sarah.
He pointed out the pumpkins stem from an Indian reservation in New Mexico, which also provides pumpkins to numerous other churches throughout the Eastern part of the United States.
While a portion of local pumpkin sales benefits the reservation, part of the proceeds support the Lincoln County church’s mission program, Ballard said.
The Methodist Men’s group opted for the church to start a pumpkin patch tradition after a member told them about the reservation.
“The more we talked,” Ballard said, “the better it sounded.”
In addition to the church’s annual fall barbecue sale, the pumpkin patch serves as the church’s primary fundraiser for sending its youth to work on low-income houses in Hinton, as well as funding local housing projects in the community.
Ballard said if the church hears about members or other individuals in the area who need a wheelchair ramp or other housing repair, members will step up and provide the work free-of-charge.
In addition, the church sends at least one person to do mission work each year in a third-world country.
In addition to Ballard, a number of other church members work the patch, which remains open 12-8 p.m. daily.
Volunteers work two-hour shifts at a time.
Ballard believes working the patch creates a “bonding effect” among members.
The pumpkins have also become a community staple as people around town have come to identify the church by the infamous orange, fall symbol that covers most of the property’s front grass each year.
“They’ll say, ‘You go (to church) where the pumpkin patch is,’” Ballard said.
While the price of the church pumpkins is slightly higher than that of other local grocery stores and county sites that sale them, people continue to flock to the patch — which usually contains a number of significant-sized pumpkins that cannot be found anywhere else.
Ballard said one even sold for $30 this year due to its unprecedented volume.
Hundreds of smaller pumpkins rest in a cross formation at the center of patch — which Ballard said has become a part of his and other members’ church life.
He believes that a church can only be truly effective if its members “get outside the church walls” and invest in the lives of area residents.
For Linda Edwards, also of Lincolnton, the pumpkin patch is a place to build memories with her grandchildren, who live in Rock Hill, S.C.
She said she remembered photographing her now 12-year-old granddaughter Sarah picking out a pumpkin at the church when she was just learning to walk.
“It’s a whole family thing,” Edwards said.
For more information on Boger City United Methodist, located at 2320 East Main Street in Lincolnton, visit bogercitychurch.org or call (704) 735-7513.