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Ready to toss your holiday pumpkin? 200 pigs in Bastrop County would like to call dibs

A pig checking out a pumpkin
Courtesy of Amanda Quick
Carlton, a rescue mini pig living in East Austin, has a nose — and an appetite — for fresh pumpkins.

Carlton, a rescue mini pig living in East Austin, thought he could eat all the neighborhood pumpkins and then some. But his human decided maybe it would be best if he shared.

Amanda Quick, a volunteer with Central Texas Pig Rescue, adopted Carlton in 2019. All the research she did to prepare for his arrival did not warn her about pigs' love for pumpkins.

When the fall season came around — and with it the smell of fresh pumpkins — Carlton made his first escape to feast on the neighbors' jack-o-laterns. Quick started to childproof every door he had access to, and adjusted his harness and leash to keep him from going out to eat more. But there was nothing that could come between him and his love for them. He escaped a total of three times.

“I felt really bad about the stolen pumpkins, so I went to my neighborhood group and apologized,” Quick said.

A lady sits on the grass with a pig next to her with trees in the background
Courtesy of Amanda Quick
Amanda Quick rescued Carlton in 2019.

When Quick’s neighbors heard what was going on they started to bring their pumpkins to her house.

“No one was mad, and everyone was actually really excited," she said, "and they wanted Carlton to eat their pumpkins."

Neighbors brought so many pumpkins, there were extras to share. Quick gathered 2,000 pumpkins and donated them to the Central Texas Pig Rescue. And with that, the Annual Great Pumpkin Haul was started.

“Not only does it cut down on waste in the city — so it helps with sustainability because these pumpkins aren’t going to the landfill now — but it also cuts down on the feed bill for the pig rescue for months,” she said.

The Central Texas Pig Rescue houses nearly 200 pigs that have been rescued from abuse, animal testing, slaughter and other inhumane situations. It provides them with the medicine, food and living conditions to have a happy life.

Quick said they eat about 100 pumpkins twice a day and go through them fast.

As Austinite Amanda Anderson was scrolling through Instagram, she found Carlton's story and was inspired to put out a call to her neighborhood and collect pumpkins. She got 81 pumpkins from neighbors and the Colton House Hotel on South Congress and took them to one of the drop-off locations the nonprofit has around the city.

Last year, the great haul collected more than 10,000 pumpkins. Event organizers hope to collect the same amount this year. The biggest single haul of the season so far will be 1,300 pumpkins scheduled to be picked up this weekend between two churches in Round Rock.

Every year the pumpkin drive grows, and Central Texas Pig Rescue gets more help. The Austin Police Department allows the nonprofit to use the department's mounted patrol horse trailer to haul pumpkins Quick said.

a pig inside a car with hay and pumpkins
Courtesy of Amanda Quick
Carlton rides along to take some pumpkins to his friends at the Texas Central Pig Rescue.

Find out where and when you can drop off a pumpkin here. The nonprofit also needs volunteers to help haul the pumpkins and unload them at the rescue center. To help out, people are asked to fill out an application. The rescue center's address is not public for the safety of the pigs.

Pumpkins are used to feed other animals, too. Chris Hacker, a pumpkin farmer at Hacker Farms in Knox City, says pumpkins still around after Thanksgiving are kept in a shaded place to feed the sheep.

“They’re a natural dewormer for sheep,” he says.

The Texas heat can get some pumpkins, but if they’re stored correctly they can last a very long time, he says. "They’ll last a big part of the year. We feed pumpkins out to our animals up to the end of March.”

If pumpkins are not fresh enough for an animal or a human to eat, they can be brought to a community gardens or composted. The City of Austin offers curbside composting services if you live in a house and classes to learn how to make a composting bin at home.

Gabby Rodriguez is a digital producer for KUT. Got a tip? Email her at grodriguez@kut.org.
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