November 27, 2011

A thankful time of year

In today's world of consumerism and hectic lifestyles, I wonder if we still remember why we give thanks at this time of year. It seems that Thanksgiving has become just a prelude to the frenzy of pre-holiday shopping that we are constantly reminded of for weeks before the holiday.

What we generally refer to as the original Thanksgiving was, in a sense, a celebration of survival. It was in all probability a typical harvest feast that was common in most agrarian societies.

The settlers who arrived in Plymouth, Mass., less than a year before had just begun to farm and with the help of the Native Americans were able to grow enough to survive the winter. From those desperate beginnings, through good times and bad, we have continued to survive and prosper. Our prosperity has in no small way been due to the rich bounty of the land and the hard work of the men and women of agriculture.

This past year was an example of how difficult it is to farm and grow our food. The spring started off with seemingly unending rain, record lake levels and severe flooding. The summer followed with heat and drought and then the fall finished it all up with Tropical Storm Irene. It is this kind of uncertainty and adversity that farmers have had to endure throughout history. There are many variables that affect the growing of crops and livestock. The weather, plant and animal diseases, insect pests, the availability of labor and machinery breakdowns all contribute to the uncertainty and risk involved in farming. The fact that most of us no longer have to depend on our backyard garden to survive is surely something for which to be thankful.

While recognizing the difficulties of growing your own food, it has become more and more popular in recent times. Even though the American food supply is the best in the world — abundant, safe, low cost and with wide choices and high nutritional value, there are many reasons to want to become more self sufficient.

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