Donate Your Leftover Pumpkins to the Pigs

Many communities are hosting pumpkin drives on behalf of hobby farms and animal shelters.

stockstudioX / Getty Images

Pumpkins are everywhere at this time of year. They're a beautiful natural form of decoration, but the question always remains of what to do with them after Halloween and Thanksgiving have passed.

It turns out, the pigs might want them. This is the first year that I can recall seeing numerous Facebook invitations and news articles about "pumpkin drives" in rural communities, where farmers and animal lovers are calling on the public to donate their leftover pumpkins as food for pigs. The pigs are either being raised by small-scale hobby farmers or are part of an animal sanctuary; they're not part of an industrial-scale farming operation.

This idea fascinated me because it seems like such a perfect way to put old pumpkins to good use. I reached out to Angela Zwambag, a hobby farmer in my own community who organized a pumpkin drive at the local recreation center on November 1. She told me she was amazed at the public response:

"We got so many [pumpkins] – two trailer loads! We have 10 KuneKune pigs and this will feed them for a very long time. The carved pumpkins don’t keep as long so we feed them first to the pigs and then smash the whole pumpkins for them later as they keep much longer. Not only do our pigs love them but also our free-range chickens! Then whatever the pigs and chickens don’t eat we will use for our compost that will go into garden and soil through out the next year."

Angie Connolly was one parent who heard about Zwambag's pumpkin drive and quickly rounded up her pumpkins, telling Treehugger,

"I think this is a wonderful way to dispose of our pumpkins. I was happy to support and impressed with the number of people in the community that felt the same. It was quick, easy, and for a good cause. I hope this is an option next Halloween."
trailer full of pumpkins
Trailer full of donated pumpkins.

Angela Zwambag

Another pumpkin drive took place for the Arran Dell Farm Sanctuary in Tara, Ontario. The organizer told Treehugger that "public feedback has been astronomical" and that 40 pumpkins were collected in the days after Halloween. (Because Thanksgiving happens in October here in Canada, there's no point hanging on to pumpkins for decorations.) The Sanctuary would not accept carved pumpkins, however, as these can be contaminated by candle wax, soot, smoke, bacteria, or even bleach that some people use to slow rot.

Andrea Francheville collects old pumpkins to feed to her rescue pot-bellied pig Whitney, as well as to donate to an animal shelter in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. She told Global News that we shouldn't be tossing out usable food when there's such food insecurity in the world, and that animal shelters can use the extra help.

"The more we send them, the better off they are. They can add it to their regular feeding routine, and it’s something that they can spend finances on another purpose versus having to buy that type of nutrition for all of the animals ... This time of year is a time when they’re trying to stock up and get stuff for the winter."

In a message to Treehugger, Francheville explained that she only takes whole pumpkins because then the pigs get to eat the insides, which have lots of nutritional value, although "pigs (and other animals) will certainly eat a carved pumpkin."

It was Zwambag's first year organizing a pumpkin drive after seeing a fellow hobby farmer do something similar on Instagram last year, and it inspired her to "get in on the pumpkin action." I think it's a brilliant idea that's likely to become more widespread as people realize that farm animals can benefit from these edible donations. Whether you organize your own pumpkin drive or contact a shelter privately and ask to drop them off, this is a good way to dispose of leftover pumpkins.