BEHIND THE SCENES
The Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving celebrated life. Many of us have never experienced life as they experienced it – spending 66 days on a sailing ship crossing the Atlantic, landing where there was no shelter, facing a drastic change in environment and life style, and with no governing authority except God. For them, natural resources, food, shelter, family, and new friends were a reason to feast and to be thankful.
Staying alive was everyone’s work. Pilgrims learned from newly found native friends a new lifestyle. Depending on others and the natural resources of their new country was a fact of daily existence. Perhaps we could get closer to the sense of celebration the Pilgrims had if we would take time to reflect on our dependence on earth’s natural resources and our dependence on others.
Just as it did for the Pilgrims, every food that we eat on Thanksgiving Day and everyday depends on the sun and the soil, water, and air present in the right amount in the right place at the right time to support plant life on land and sea.
Just as it did for the Pilgrims our life now depends on others. And our food supply is a tangible example of our dependence. Staying alive is everyone’s work but now in a much different way. In our country we depend on less than two percent of our population to provide the food for all of our people. We ship food to other countries and they, in turn, ship food to us. Most of us serve others by supplying their needs and exchanging our services (by way of money) for what we need.
One example of how times have changed is how a native American fruit, the cranberry, has become a cultivated product we purchase after harvest. “The cranberry has helped sustain Americans for hundreds of years. Native Americans used cranberries in a variety of foods, the most popular was pemmican – a high protein combination of crushed cranberries, dried deer meat and melted fat – they also used it as a medicine to treat arrow wounds and as a dye for rugs and blankets.” Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association.
Cultivation of the cranberry began in the early 1800s in Massachusetts and continues in production in several states and Canadian provinces. A tour guide would probably explain that, years ago, the USDA tried to develop a major undeveloped land area near Tomah, Wisconsin for growing corn. Even though roads were built in the area, corn wouldn’t grow in the marshes. Cranberries do well.
Wisconsin, with 250 producers on 18.000 acres of land, has become the largest producer for 15 consecutive years – 4 million 100-pound barrels in 2009. www.wiscran.org. If you prefer to buy food locally, Wisconsin is as close as you can get for cranberries.
Della Moen, Earth Team Volunteer, NRCS/Stephenson Soil and Water Conservation District, an equal opportunity provider and employer, 11/17/10 (for publication on 11/20/10 in the Journal Standard, Freeport, Illinois) Della can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org