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Pumpkins and the best jerky in town

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A long-time tradition: picking your pumpkin at St. Mark's

Watch out jerky fans — this year’s St. Mark’s Pumpkin Patch event includes the first Best Jerky in Roswell Contest

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

The annual Pumpkin Patch is open from Oct. 16 to 28 at St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2911 N. Main St. Opening times are weekdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. There will be rows and rows of locally grown pumpkins for sale, face painting and free popcorn while visitors shop for their perfect pumpkin and photo opportunities.

The highlight will be the first Best Beef Jerky in Roswell contest on Oct. 27. Applications can be picked up at the church office by Oct. 19. The contest will be held during the annual pumpkin patch event (2 to 6 p.m.). All entries must be submitted for judging on Oct. 27 by 4:30 p.m.

On Oct. 28 the community choir Silver Chords perform at 2:30 p.m., which ends the season.

All profits benefit Harvest Ministries. For more information, call 575-623-0519.

As American as apple pie may be a saying, but actually, jerky has a much deeper connection with the country.

For thousands of years — long before the idea of refrigeration — native American tribes tried to find ways to keep their meat fresh for a longer time. Those who lived near salt basins or the ocean found out fast that salt dehydrates meat and keeps it fresh, but what to do without the seasoning? Some bright individual or an entire tribe came up with the idea of using smoke to dehydrate thin strips of meat — jerky was invented.

Today, jerky remains popular in the U.S. as a fast snack that is available at any gas station and grocery store for the hungry traveler. However, especially in Roswell, there are several businesses that specialize in gourmet jerky. There also are hobby jerky fans that make their own product with carefully guarded recipes.

Pastor Daniel Tisdel of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church got the idea of including the Best Beef Jerky in Roswell competition into the pumpkin patch events earlier this summer during the UFO Festival.

“I do a morning coffee hour in the office and during the UFO Festival, I didn’t want to go downtown because it was so packed.” Tisdel said. “I went to that place called Perk N Jerk (Coffeeshop). I started realizing there are a lot of places that have jerky here and what a neat thing that is.”

Five local commercial jerky makers have already signed up for the competition. The contest is open to everybody to participate in with hopes to receive the plaque announcing that they are the winner of the Best Beef Jerky in Roswell competition. Sign-up cost per category and jerky is $25. There will be jerky vendors selling their products as well.

Tisdel and one member of Harvest Ministries will be a judge, but there are still two to three judge positions open. Categories are Best Teriyaki Jerky (traditional teriyaki flavor), Best Spicy Jerky — Tisdale said that they are not judging who has the spiciest, but who’s spicy jerky is the best. Last category is Best Mild Jerky — not spicy or teriyaki; anything else goes. Commercial and private awards are given in each category.

“We pick a charity every year and this year, we picked Harvest Ministries to benefit from the pumpkin sale and jerky,” Tisdale said. “The jerky may generate about $350 additionally on top of whatever the pumpkins make.

“Really, ultimately it is about to have a little more funds to give to Harvest Ministry,” Tisdale said. It is important for him that the public knows that the pumpkin patch — which goes back more than 30 years — and the jerky contest are not to get more members, but to help those in need.

“People are welcome to worship here, but I think if churches aren’t reaching out and helping groups like Harvest Ministries, then we are failing our job as Christians,” Tisdale said. “We are planning to have between 800 and 1,000 pumpkins.”

Sandra Winslow is helping to organize the pumpkin patch and is part of the Silver Chords Choir, who are going to perform on Oct. 28.

“The Silver Chords is a community choir,” she said. “There are nine churches involved with about 40 members. We go out and sing at all the nursing homes and retirement homes. We just got back from Mission Arch, the nursing home. We had a great audience today (Tuesday), we had 25 people there to listen to us.”

Winslow is worried about having all the pumpkins at the church by Oct. 16, but the locally grown pumpkins are not looking as if they will be ripe by then.

“We are not exactly sure where they will come from,” Winslow said. “Graves is looking for us.”

According to the RDR archives a late harvest happened last in 2006. Pumpkins for St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church were brought in by Graves Farm & Garden from the Farmington area.

“He has been a wonderful partner,” Winslow said. “He has contacts in New Mexico and Texas. I have faith that we are starting on the 16th. If we don’t have a large amount out there, then we’ll start on the 17th. If we only get 400, we’ll sell those. We do what we can with what mother nature gives us.”