Stolen pumpkins grown by kids at Kennewick school

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldOctober 9, 2012 

It looks like Christmas isn't the only holiday with a Grinch.

Golden pumpkins and ripe tomatoes were stolen from the garden behind Eastgate Elementary School in Kennewick between Friday afternoon and Monday morning.

Students and parents worked with members of Bethel Church and Cathedral of Joy to build and plant the garden last March.

The garden's pumpkin patch belonged to the school's kindergartners. They planned to harvest their crop this week with cold weather setting in and Halloween only a few weeks away.

"There were at least 14 (pumpkins), and they were big," said fifth-grade teacher Koren Burling, who helped lead the garden effort.

Principal Niki Arnold-Smith said she filed a report with the Kennewick Police Department, primarily because the thief or thieves had to climb a fence to get into the garden and steal the produce.

She said the gardens were meant to enhance the school's science curriculum, give students a more hands-on experience with agriculture and nature and bond through cooperative work.

Three small- to medium-size pumpkins are left in the patch, and no other parts of the garden, which also grew garlic, basil and other plants, were damaged.

The pumpkins and tomatoes weren't worth much money, but Burling said she was angry someone would steal from the school's youngest students.

She said most students aren't aware of the theft yet, but she expects them to be upset.

Mike Blatman, crime prevention specialist with the police department, said they have gotten reports in the past of landscape materials, such as shrubs, being stolen from the Master Gardeners at the Washington State University Extension office in Kennewick, but people don't call about their personal vegetable gardens being raided.

None of Eastgate's tomatoes or pumpkins has been found smashed or damaged, giving school staff some hope that the produce was stolen for food.

"No, they're probably carving them," Blatman said.

-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com

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