Front row, L-R: Kyra Bobiney, Denalie Bronder, Anna McQueeney, Bailey Earley, Madison Steen, Katalyna Wolski, Brody Hepner, Miah Alonso and Kennleigh Malin. Back row, L-R: Alexis Johnson, Ryan Markum, Hunter Sallee, Nicho McQueeney, Shelby Hoobler, Haylee Bruckner, Brooke Jacobson, John Smith. Photo courtesy of East High School.
This fall, an unexpected opportunity presented itself when SkillsUSA students at East High School in Cheyenne, Wyo., began brainstorming community service ideas for the year. A local farmer who previously hosted a long-standing pumpkin patch no longer wanted to run it, and he generously offered the idea — and the name: “Fall on the Farm” — to the SkillsUSA and FFA chapters at the school.
The students jumped at the idea to kickstart fundraising and introduce their SkillsUSA and FFA chapters to their community. SkillsUSA advisors Kelsey Baumgartner, Tinamarie Quick and Tyler Anderson — along with FFA advisor Joseph Allen — began by asking the officer teams to plan the project. They would need to source the pumpkins, transport them, decide on the activities and find those who could help.
“We reached out to the Laramie County Event Center at Archer, a large local outdoor event space, and they offered to give us the space for free,” says Baumgartner. “Once we had the donated land, we knew we could make the project work because of the giving nature of our community.”
The SkillsUSA and FFA officer teams decided that the pumpkin patch would be open the second, third and fourth weekends in October, giving them a short time to plan. “Collaborating with another student-led organization like FFA helped highlight SkillsUSA and FFA and what students do in our small town,” says senior and SkillsUSA secretary Daira Ruiz.
First, the students located a source for the pumpkins at a farm in nearby Colorado, and then located a large heated indoor facility to keep the pumpkins safe from freezing weather. They purchased 1,500 pumpkins for 40 cents a pound, and as a group, decided to resell them for $1 a pound.
With assistance from the parents, school staff and various members of the community, it all came together, and “Fall on the Farm” turned out to be a huge success. About 50 students helped run it. Each weekend morning, starting at 5 a.m., they began loading the pumpkins into a truck from the storage area and setting them up at the farm.
During the open hours, the students ran the front gate; weighed, sold and carried the pumpkins for the customers; and ran the games. Admission was $5; the pumpkins were sold by weight, but everything else was free. A local farmer donated 3,000 lbs. of cornstalks for decorations, 25 hay bales and the outdoor signs. Others donated animals for a petting zoo, complete with goats, alpacas, a steer and a donkey. The local antique tractor club donated an antique scale to weigh the pumpkins, displayed tractors from 1920 and offered two tractors for children to drive. The students also put together a relay race and pony rides. Others donated life-size outdoor board games, such as Connect, Jenga and chess. There were booths for hair tinseling and face painting, and two food trucks were onsite each weekend.
“We were happy to see the amazing turnout,” says senior and SkillsUSA president Suzette Mejia. “I enjoyed watching our community come together.”
“We were really happy to have played a role in introducing SkillsUSA into our community by helping host this event,” adds senior and SkillsUSA vice president Alexis Johnson.
“We had more than 250 people attend a day,” says Baumgartner. “We were so pleased that the chapters made a profit of $13,600 after expenses, and we donated $1,200 in pumpkins back to the community on the final day. The money raised will be used to help fund our SkillsUSA and FFA activities this year.”
“We are a small chapter and hosting this event made a huge difference in our yearly budget and in getting the town to know who we are,” says junior and SkillsUSA treasurer Nicho McQueeney.
“Next year’s ‘Fall on the Farm’ will be in the same place, but we’ll have a little more time to plan it,” continues Baumgartner. “We would also like to run a coat drive during next year’s event since we have a large homeless population in Cheyenne, and it gets cold here in the winter.”
It may get cold outside, but this school’s SkillsUSA and FFA members are committed to warming up hearts through their ongoing service.