Encinitas monks preparing for bigger pumpkin yield this year


Monks at the Self-Realization Fellowship grow and carve pumpkins annually as a creative Halloween treat for the community.

With a yield more than double last year’s, they’ve had their hands full this week getting ready for Encinitas Safe Trick or Treat, an event in which their pumpkins will be lit up and on display. It takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. Halloween night, Oct. 31, at “Pumpkin Lane” — Coast Highway 101, from the Fellowship grounds on K Street to Encinitas Boulevard.

“The pumpkins are a community service,” said Brother Tejananda of the Fellowship, an international spiritual organization. “I always look forward to it.”

The haul of about 300 pumpkins this year is above average and dwarfs last fall’s yield of around 130. Tejananda explained that the ongoing drought as well as an on-and-off again fungus took its toll on pumpkins in recent years.

Monks late this spring planted a bigger crop than usual, anticipating pumpkin health problems, but those didn’t come to pass.

“We ended up with a pretty good yield,” Tejananda said. Yet, he added, the pumpkins as a whole are a bit smaller than normal. Still, good ones can get up to 60 pounds.

In a tradition that goes back some 25 years, the monks grow the pumpkins in plots overlooking the ocean on Vulcan Avenue and Cornish Drive. In September, they harvest and truck them back to the Fellowship grounds.

Their pumpkin designs often reflect pop culture. Tejananda said to expect plenty of “Star Wars,” “The Hobbit” and superhero pumpkins. And this year’s crop yielded a greater number of white and green pumpkins, allowing for white ghosts and green characters like Shrek.

The Encinitas 101 Mainstreet Association is hosting Safe Trick or Treat, with the pumpkins being the main draw. Another major part of Safe Trick or Treat is the Queen’s Court, near the Fellowship bookstore. It features a queen and her loyal subjects handing out candy and taking kids’ wishes.

Kids can also enjoy Halloween-themed activities and games in The Lumberyard Courtyard, courtesy of the 101 Artists Colony, plus dancing to the live music of Bucket Ruckus.

Brother Luca last year told the Encinitas Advocate that the monks are dedicated to spiritual studies and meditation, and the pumpkins are but one way they give back to the community.

“We are very focused on meditation and developing our spiritual side,” Luca said. “At the same time, we do have another side that’s focused on community service.”