Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
By Suzanne Armstrong, CFFO Director of Research/Manager of Board & Committee Services
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time when family and friends come together to celebrate the fruits of the growing year. No celebration can go without food, but Thanksgiving is a celebration of food itself as a gift of God’s goodness.
The past week was also Agriculture Week in Ontario. There are many opportunities to celebrate the local harvest at festivals and special events around the province. No doubt the abundant variety of local foods and flowers will adorn Thanksgiving tables and fill hungry bellies over the long weekend.
The diversity of this abundance is likely to increase, with the new OMAFRA mandate letter including a push for “promoting growth of world crops to meet the diversity of Ontario’s consumer marketplace.” Ontario agriculture is blessed with a diverse population close to our best farmland. This creates the conditions for our vibrant local food market. Clearly the government sees opportunities for this to increase. Although I had trouble convincing my in-laws to try squash at Thanksgiving, this diverse market may present more opportunities for families to enjoy familiar foods that are now grown on local farms, or to introduce new foods into family traditions.
As we come to the harvest time of the year, the yields are variable across crops and regions. Yet we find, despite harsh hot dry conditions in many areas of the province this summer, that there are still many aspects of plenty to the harvest season. The wheat crop this year is particularly abundant, with some areas surpassing previous records. Yet corn and soybeans are highly variable, and suffered particularly in some areas. Pasture may be impacted into next season from the lack of rain as well. The grape harvest, on the other hand, benefitted from the hot dry weather.
Thanksgiving is also a reminder that food is not just about the yield in the bin. The food that farmers produce has value beyond the price on the market. Food is a vital connecting point between humans and the rest of nature which leads directly back to the Creator. The food we grow and the way we grow and prepare it are expressions of our culture and values. We give thanks for the harvest. We give thanks for those sitting around the dinner table with us to celebrate. We remember with thanks those who celebrated with us in the past, but who may no longer be with us. We give thanks for new friends and the bright faces of young children who bring promises of next season, and harvests yet to come.