Thanksgiving is a seasonal holiday principally observed in the United States and Canada. The tradition of recognizing the bounty of harvested crops and reflecting on family, friendships, and bonds between neighbors is traced to gatherings of Native Americans and Colonists that took place in New England in the early 1600s. With European farmland becoming less capable of feeding the expanding population, colonists crossed the Atlantic Ocean, largely, to settle the New World’s ample farmland. However, many colonists encountered extreme hardships in their first years in the new land. For many, survival depended upon the assistance Native Americans provided in teaching the colonists how to hunt, plant crops, and harvest native foods. Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest with a feast at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621, and Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony held their first Thanksgiving celebration in 1630. Large amounts of game, fish, and harvested crops were served. The Europeans especially enjoyed the wild turkeys of the New World, and they introduced them to Europe. Today, domesticated turkeys are the foundation of most Thanksgiving Day dinners. European colonists impacted the New World environment and agriculture when they brought in Old World plants, cattle, hogs, earthworms, and honey bees.
Thanksgiving is a reminder to us of how important, and sometimes fragile, is our food supply. In the 1600s, people left Europe to seek new, fertile lands to produce food. Today, we feed the world, in large part, by industrial agriculture. Hopefully, we can balance the need to produce large volumes of food while protecting the soil, air, and water. People today have the same needs as our colonial ancestors: protection from the elements, food, and an environment free of toxins. Our bees, likewise, have the same requirements. We met many people at farmers markets this week gathering food for a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Among them was our friend, beekeeper and urban farmer, Mary Phillips. This Thanksgiving Day I am enriched by beekeeping friends from across the country and around the world.--Richard