There'll be plenty of pumpkin love being shared at Encompass Community Services’ 3rd Annual Pumpkin Fair on Saturday, 25th March, at their farm in Leopold called, The Paddock.
Words by FRITZIE PUNSALANG | Photos by Encompass Community Services Inc
What is not to love about pumpkins? Storyteller Ilan Shamir sums it up well with in a little verse he calls, 'Advice from a Pumpkin':
Get plenty of sunshine
Give thanks for life’s bounty
Have a thick skin
Be outstanding in your field
Thinking big is something that Encompass Community Services has always been known for. For over 30 years, the quiet achievers have committed to providing universal opportunities, offering a wide range of programs and services to help people build their strength and develop new skills.
Kiane McKinlay, Encompass’ Communications and Marketing Manager says, “We love putting on this free event for the community. It exemplifies what Encompass is all about, which is access for all.” Now in its third year, the family-friendly event that prides itself on being fully accessible is held at Encompass’ 7-acre farm, The Paddock, on O’Halloran Rd, off Melaluka Road in Leopold. She continues, “The Paddock started as a rundown hobby farm and over the years has transformed into a place for agricultural production, community engagement and horticultural therapy. It is a place where people of all abilities and backgrounds have worked together to showcase what is possible.”
Encompass’ Business Services Manager, Jan Daniels, chairs the Pumpkin Fair Committee and has been at the helm for two years now. Jan says, “Community engagement makes the Pumpkin Fair different. We have received feedback about how relaxed the environment is and how our activities are suited to people of all abilities.”
Like in previous years, the Pumpkin Fair will feature art and craft items, fresh local produce, children’s activities (jumping castle, face painting, petting zoo), sausage sizzle, market stalls, silent auction, spinning wheel, and lots of pumpkins!
The ‘Pumpkin Fair Colouring In Competition’, which has been a big hit amongst primary schools in Geelong and the Bellarine area is back and once again sponsored by SC Technology Group. Its director Robert Hunter says, “I have been supporting and working with Encompass for over 15 years now. There are many not-for-profits in Geelong but I really believe Encompass have so much passion for everything that they do. They keep evolving to really drive change for their clients.” He continues, “I have been to all the Pumpkin Fairs with my family and have enjoyed seeing each year get bigger and bigger. But what really delights me are the smiles on everyone’s faces, you can really see a sense of pride and evolvement with all the people there. The community should absolutely support the Pumpkin Fair; not only to have fun but to also support Encompass and help the future of the farm. Of course, have a pumpkin scone or two on the side!”
Pumpkin-themed food is always the star of the fair. Tracey Kenshole, supervisor of Encompass’ catering service MnC, cannot wait to share with us the array of food that will be presented on the day. “The gourmet sausage rolls (lamb, feta and pumpkin), have been really popular so they are definitely back. We will also have all-time favourites pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup. Pumpkin cooked and prepared in every way possible will be served: pumpkin cake, pumpkin muffins (sweet and savoury), pumpkin scones, grilled pumpkin, pumpkin sausages on the bbq, pumpkin bread, roasted pumpkin salad, maybe even pumpkin pizza, and a lot more! The MnC staff just enjoy creating recipes with pumpkins in as many ways as possible. What we are excited about are our special pumpkin variety bespoke pies. They are handmade and created with love!”
The love of fresh food is one of the reasons why the Pumpkin Fair came about. A couple of years ago, there was an abundance of pumpkins at The Paddock. The pumpkins were fresh, straight from the ground, and grown using no chemicals. It was then that the Finance Director of Encompass’ board, Libby Fitzgerald, thought of having a Pumpkin Fair. The fair is an opportunity to promote sustainable food production and encourage the community to grow their own food. In fact, Encompass CEO Elaine Robb mentions that the farm is currently looking at a cheese-making project. She says, “This will provide employment and training opportunities for more of our people.”
The Paddock Supervisor, Chris Evans, says, “We have been encouraging for more paddock to plate experience in the area as this is really something that we are passionate about.” The Paddock is currently growing and supplying seedlings and cuttings for local farmers; and are thrilled to open the farm to the public for the Pumpkin Fair. The Paddock Assistant Supervisor, Steve Hanan, says, “This is a great opportunity for people to see microfarm in full production. We also will have more plants ready for sale. The apple orchard, a collaboration between The Flying Brick Cider Co and Encompass, is now up and running with 16 different varieties of heritage apples. There are around 600 trees and hopefully we will see some locally produced cider apples in 2-3 years.”
Long Italian traditional pumpkins are now in the ground and should be ready in time for the fair, despite it being a late season. When asked why they have chosen this variety of pumpkin, Chris replies, “These pumpkins deserve some limelight. They are sweet and flavourful. They are long and not the typical round ones, which is something different. The seeds are at one end; and they are not usually found in mainstream markets - so it's something new! We will also be conducting farm tours throughout the day; and people can pick their own vegetables.”
A big hit from last year was the ‘Pumpkin Pageant’. The event encouraged various schools, farmers, and pumpkin enthusiasts to grow their own pumpkin. People who were unable to grow their own pumpkin were still able to participate by dressing a pumpkin. All that was required was a bit of creativity and some pumpkin love! There were amazing entries in the pageant last year - most notable was the 47-kilo pumpkin that won the pageant. Special prizes were given to the ‘Shaggy Dog’ pumpkin, the ‘Minion Pumpkin’, and the ‘Chilli Pumpkin’. This year, Encompass is looking forward to seeing more entries. Jan says, “It would be good to see bigger and crazier entries at the Pumpkin Pageant. We would have more categories this time so everyone can join! If people cannot grow their own pumpkins, they can just dress them up! This is open to everyone. It should be lots of fun.” Anyone interested in joining can call the Encompass head office on 5222 3377 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Live entertainment is also a favourite feature of the Pumpkin Fair. Encompass Operations Manager Sadat-Jon Hussain and a couple of Options and Connections participants have been on compere duties since the fair started. He says, “Having participants compere gives them the opportunity to develop confidence and self-worth. It also gives them a voice to show to everyone that they are like everyone else.” Sadat loves the fact that the fair brings all the staff together, along with the local Leopold community. He continues, “I also love that the Pumpkin Fair allows us to work with our participants in a different environment, not a program environment. It also allows us to meet families and vice versa.”
Performing at the fair are the Options and Connections Dance Group, acoustic duo Salted Fish, Dancenforce Leopold, Geelong Sings and many more. The very popular Scarecrow Photobooth is also going to be back. Last year, people swarmed around it to take fun snaps. Some of the photos were generously shared via Encompass’ social media page.
So, if you are ready to have fun, are well-rounded, eager to get plenty of sunshine, thankful for life’s bounty, have thick skin, willing to keep growing, determined to be outstanding in your field, and are always thinking big; then come along and share some pumpkin love at the Pumpkin Fair!
Encompass Community Services Inc.
400 Pakington Street, Geelong 3220
Ph: 5222 3377
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