Thanksgiving: An Occasion for Agricultural Activism

Thanksgiving-BrownscombeI used to hate Thanksgiving. This was in my mid-twenties, when I was coming to grips with the realities of our forebears’ less-than-compassionate treatment of Native Americans. The narrative I’d been told my whole life—that Thanksgiving was a celebration of congenial relations between Pilgrim and Indian—had been proven false, and I was bitter. To me, Thanksgiving was when privileged white people congregated in houses built on land stolen from Native Americans to ignorantly gorge themselves on foods whose propagation would have been impossible without those same Natives, whose warmth and wisdom were rewarded with fraud, disease, and genocide. Like I said, I hated it.

These days, however, I love Thanksgiving. It’s not that I’ve forgotten the holiday’s true roots—the title ‘thanksgiving’ after all, originates from the name the Massachusetts Bay Colony governor gave to the massacre of 700 Pequot Indians on the morning of their annual Green Corn Festival. It’s that I’ve come to embrace what Thanksgiving is, rather than what it was. It is a once-a-year chance to share a meal with friends and family. It’s also an occasion to promote and spread the joy of wholesome, organic foods.

In my family, Thanksgiving is a collaborative effort. We meet at either my Mom’s or my Aunt Lisa’s, each family member bringing a dish or two. Aunt Lisa, however, always provides the turkey. A stickler about quality, she gets her bird from Bolton Farms, a small, family-owned outfit based in Sellersville. She also insists on providing as many organic/non-GMO side dishes as possible. It’s a tradition she initiated many years ago, when my Thanksgivings were spent stewing silently over the crimes of my forebears. And as the years passed, the rest of the family caught on, giving more consideration to the food they eat—how it was grown, where it came from, etc.

This year, for the first time, I’ll be bringing my own organic dish. Two, actually. Brown rice and butterball potatoes from—where else?—Blue Moon Acres. The ability to share food that satisfies both my high standards for taste, as well as my high ethical standards is a source of deep pleasure. As is the awareness that, in my own small way, I’m casting a vote against conventionally-grown produce.

I may be incapable of rewriting our nation’s brutal history, but I can work to make our present better. I can choose to buy organic, locally-sourced foods; and I can chose to share the good news about those foods. And, little by little, together with friends and family, we can resurrect the great spirit of the Native Americans that was lost so long ago.

By | November 26th, 2014|News|0 Comments

Top Five Coolest Harvest Fests!

Fruit Fest

The harvest season is upon us, and harvest festivals abound. Here in the U.S. we celebrate autumn’s bounty with pumpkin and apple fests, with wine fests and apple butter frolics, and, of course, with Thanksgiving. But harvest festivals are not a uniquely American entity; they are as abundant and varied as autumn leaves are colorful.

1. Chanthaburi Fruit Fair: Chanthaburi, Thailand.

Thailand’s annual fruit fair is to fruit what Thanksgiving is to vegetables. Vendors line the street selling delicious fruit you’ve never even heard of before—durians, rambutan, longans, and mangosteens. There are also produce competitions, art displays, beauty pageants, and parades with floats made from thousands of tropical fruits and vegetables. Prizes are awarded for best fruit display and best tasting fruit. A fruit lover’s dream!

Sukkot2. Sukkot: Jerusalem, Israel and elsewhere.

Sukkot (pronounced ‘Sue Coat’) is both a celebration of Israel’s bountiful harvests and a period of somber reflection. Observers build makeshift huts called sukkah, with roofs open to the sky, where they eat and sleep for the next seven days. Every day through this seven day period, the ‘lulav’ and the ‘etrog’, a willow wand and a type of lemon respectively, are shaken in all directions to honor the gifts from the land. These ceremonies are meant to memorialize the long years the Israelites spent in the desert.

 

 

Olivagando3. Olivagando: Magione, Italy

At the Olivagando Oil and Autumn Festival, the olive is king. This two-day festival, held in Magione, Italy, is celebrated in concert with the feast of St. Clement, patron saint of metalworkers and blacksmiths. The high point of the festival is the sought-after olive oil made from la dolce agogia. Along with the oils, attendees enjoy wines, fresh walnuts and chestnuts, hand-made cheeses, cured meats, and truffles. There are also oil tastings, workshops, art contests, antiques markets, and horseback tours. And if that’s not enough, the Magione Theatrical Company provides entertainment in the form of singing, dancing, and storytelling!

 

Yam Fest4Yam Festival: Ghana and Nigeria

Yams may be but a side dish here in the States, but in Ghana and Nigeria’s harvest celebrations they are the piece de resistance. Unlike other harvest celebrations, the Yam Festival isn’t held on a specific day, but whenever the rainy season ends, usually in July or August. Corn, okra, beans, and cassava are also served, along with fish, chicken, lamb, and various soups. Desserts include mangoes, guavas, pineapples or oranges. There is also ceremonial drumming, singing, mask-wearing, and other festive activities including parades.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Itel’men Tribal Harvest Festival: Kamchatka, Russia

This frosty festival celebrates the harvest of the tribal indigenous Russians of the Koriak—the Itel’men and Sunda peoples. In homage to their ancestors, tribes-people make a 43 mile hike to the top of Mt. Elvel where they leave a sacramental wooden carving. Festival-goers also enjoy a sweet rice dish known as “Pongal” to celebrate the apple, nut, and honey harvests. A type of homemade Vodka is consumed, and villagers compete for the tastiest variation on salmon, potatoes, berries, and gir (bear fat). Also included in the festival: dancing, drumming, chanting, singing, and totem-carving.

 

By | November 14th, 2014|News|0 Comments

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