Why Crozet: Pumpkin Project Keeps Tons from Landfill

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Rachael and Tori Pond sort through their mountain of pumpkins before delivering them to a Batesville farm. Submitted photo.

Why Crozet? Now beginning its 4th year, is a way for the Crozet Gazette to highlight the people, places, and events that inspire those of us who live here and make us proud to be a part of the greater community that includes Crozet and Western Albemarle. We often hear from neighbors who have found a meaningful way to make a small difference. This month, we talked to a woman who managed to find a use for pumpkins, hay bales and corn stalks long after their seasonal appearance as fall decorations was over.

Hundreds of people dropped off more than five tons of pumpkins in Tori Pond’s Wickham Pond backyard, pumpkins that would otherwise have rotted in neighborhood trash cans and local landfills. 

It took more effort to bring the pumpkins to her house than to walk a few feet to their own bins, Pond acknowledges, but this small extra effort spent by her Crozet neighbors has benefits beyond restricting the harmful methane gas trapped when trash prevents vegetative matter from enriching the earth. The thousands of pumpkins (there were also more than a hundred pounds of straw bales, miscellaneous vegetables, and fruit) fed the goats and a pig as well as any other animals currently in residence at Alyce Pollock’s Batesville farm.

The pumpkin project began in 2020 when the Pond family wondered publicly about what they could do with their own carved pumpkins, collapsing inward on their porch after Halloween and Thanksgiving. “It seemed Ike such a waste,” Tori Pond said. “I went to social media for some ideas.”

Pumpkins, both carved and uncarved, make a delicious lunch for Leif the goat and Poppy the pig. Submitted photo.

She found dozens of other people asking the same question. There were no answers, though, so Tori decided she’d be the one to take action. She offered to go from porch to porch, collecting jack-o-lanterns as well as decorative pumpkins, squash, hay and cornstalks. It was a labor of love for Tori, as well as her husband Scott and daughter Rachael.

She could see, though, that as the local expectations for fall decorating became more elaborate, and more people found out about her service, her good intentions could easily get out of hand. She just couldn’t pick up the volume of seasonal leftovers without spending a fortune on gas, not to mention working full time as a pumpkin chauffeur. The next year she asked her clients to bring their decorative debris to her home. It worked! Householders eager to get started on Christmas decorations dropped off hundreds of pumpkins. In 2022, the number grew to more than two tons.

This year, the pile of pumpkins is even higher, Pond said. People pull into her neighborhood with truckloads. In late November, she reported delivering more than 700 pounds of nutritious animal food each day to Jumping Bean and Leif, the goats, and Poppy the pig. She and Rachael, a student at Western, sort out the day’s meals, picking the hollow pumpkins for immediate snacking and the uncut squash and pumpkins for later use. She’s found that Poppy, Leif and Jumping Jack (although they’re certainly not fussy) head for the weirder-shaped and colored squash before attacking the piles of traditional orange pumpkins. 

Jumping Bean takes his pick of pumpkins as soon as they’re dropped off. Submitted photo.

As the deliveries slow down, the Ponds maintain another pantry at their own home for delivery later in the winter. As Tori sees it, some of the remaining inventory feeds the squirrels, chipmunks and birds. She’s noticed that some people even drop off leftover potatoes, apples, bread and muffins. It’s all fine with her, she said: “It’s no exaggeration that goats and pigs will pretty much eat anything.”

The Pond family project has turned out to have some happy results that were unexpected. They were new to Crozet when they first began. “Now we know a lot more people,” Tori said. “We think the whole thing builds a sense of community.” Despite the significant amount of effort, she plans to continue. They hope to have a farm someday and have enjoyed getting a glimpse of how it all works. It helps that the people who take the trouble to transport their aging decorations to her house are bound to have something in common with her family, namely the desire to promote sustainability by keep useable items out of the landfill, she said. “We’ll do it as long as we can.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the print version to correct Tori’s last name.

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