The Pumpkin Run, Pathfinders

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For some people, a pumpkin is a nostalgic reminder of spooky Halloweens spent carving, dressing up and trick-or-treating with friends. For others, it’s the perfect addition to Mum’s delicious Sunday night roast. For Pathfinders, a pumpkin is so much more.

What is the Pumpkin Run?

For the past three years, the Pathfinders Pumpkin Run has travelled to Sydney to deliver tonnes of pumpkins to those in need. This year, the non-profit is gearing up to do it again.

The Pathfinders Pumpkin Run is a multi-day event where Pathfinders staff, at-risk young people, volunteers and partnering organisations travel from Armidale to Sydney, stopping in different cities and towns along the way, to cook pumpkin soup and deliver hearty vegetables to those in need.

The idea hatched from the desire to use the crops produced at Tilbuster Station by our young people from Pathfinders youth refuge and Out-of-Home Care program to help others in the community. The working farm is utilised as a venue for our at-risk youth to participate in a range of agricultural, horticultural and trade skills programs crop and vegetable production, animal husbandry, beef cattle production, fencing, welding and building construction.

Who benefits from the Pathfinders Pumpkin Run?

Everyone! The beauty of the Pathfinders Pumpkin Run is that it not only helps those receiving the pumpkins and meals, but it also helps our at-risk youth and volunteers who are delivering the produce and practicing their generosity.

The event engages the youth to give back to the local, broader community by donating the harvested produce to nursing homes, soup kitchens and Meals on Wheels. Despite being at-risk themselves, the Pathfinders young people get the opportunity to travel to Sydney and help homeless youth by delivering pumpkins and prepping hot meals for those in need. Members of the communities we stop in benefit by getting nutritious, free meals and a chance to gather and converse with others to build a sense of belonging.

Why pumpkins?

Our young people grow various crops and produce at Tilbuster Station, from pumpkins to potatoes and corn. In the past, we’ve taken off on the Pumpkin Run with pumpkins and potatoes in tow! The great thing about using pumpkins is that they’re hearty and versatile. They taste delicious, they’re very nutritious, and they can be made into almost anything, as evidenced by our visit to the Governor’s House last year.

How many pumpkins have you grown on Tilbuster Station?

More than 9 tonnes of pumpkins have been grown and harvested at Tilbuster Station, helping Pathfinders feed thousands of men, women and children across New South Wales.

More than 50 people attended the harvest day at Tilbuster Station last year, including young people, staff, volunteers and students from Wright College. They picked and washed pumpkins and assisted in sorting and bagging potatoes that were also harvested. We’re hoping to have an even larger harvest day this year, with more attendees and more pumpkins yielded for our 2017 Pumpkin Run.

Tell Us About Last Year’s Journey to Sydney.

The 2016 Pumpkin Run journey commenced in Armidale on Tuesday, 12th April with pumpkins loaded on a gooseneck horse trailer, utes and a couple of buses. The Pathfinders team of young people, ranging from 13- to 20-years-old, and youth workers were eager to be a part of giving back to those in need in the community.

The first stop of the Pumpkin Run was the new youth centre, “The Youthie”, where attendees enjoyed youth activities and pumpkin soup cooked by Tamworth Meals on Wheels. Next up was Newcastle, where Pathfinders partnered with Community Youth Development Project and the Samaritans to cook at Soul Café and serve a three-course lunch using Tilbuster-grown pumpkins. Soul Café serves hot meals free of charge to more than 130 disadvantaged members of the community five days per week and serves breakfast three times per week to about 80 people.

When we arrived in Sydney, we teamed up with OzHarvest – the first perishable food rescue organisation in Australia collecting quality excess food from commercial outlets and delivering it, direct and free of charge, to 800 charities, providing much needed assistance to vulnerable men, women and children across Australia. The team jumped straight into the kitchen to cook and then headed off to the Newtown Mission. The Mission’s Community Care Centre provides about 100 meals every day to help feed disadvantaged members of the community. The cherry on top was getting to finish at Government House in Sydney at the invitation of His Excellency General David Hurley. A group of Pathfinders team members were able to enjoy a pumpkin-themed meal, with delicious foods like pumpkin scones and pumpkin and ricotta arancini with aioli, as they enjoyed the honour of being guests in such a special place.

The Pathfinders staff was inspired by the young people’s attitude and willingness to help. Their confidence grew each day with the tasks of cooking, feeding and speaking to the homeless and many people who were in need of a healthy meal. After all their hard work and long hours, the young people were rewarded with a trip to Bondi Beach. Not only was it a rewarding experience for the young people to show generosity to others, but it was also great for the young people to see Sydney sights that they never thought they’d see.

What’s happening with the 2017 Pumpkin Run?

With the hailstorms followed by the heat waves in Armidale earlier this year, our planted pumpkins faced a bit of adversity when growing this year. However, our motivated staff planted more pumpkins in February and are optimistic they’ll grow in the following months. To stay up-to-date with the 2017 Pathfinders Pumpkin Run, follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/pathfindersaustralia and on Instagram at @pathfindersaustralia

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