Fall has arrived in Florida! Dry, crisp mornings, blue cloudless skies. And did I mention DRY as in, low humidity? It’s sweater weather in early morning on the lanai. I love this time of year because this was my introduction to Florida weather eight years ago this week. Yesterday, I went to a Pumpkin Festival in the next county to get the full flavor of fall. This is an annual 3-weekend event on a huge working farm.
This is truly a family event focused on children, with rides, games, 2-foot-high hay maze, and petting zoo. It is rare for me to see in Florida so many children all in one place, enjoying everything there is to see, to do, and to eat. My purpose in going this year was to photograph the fruitfulness of the season and the joy of the children, to get some walking exercise in interesting surroundings, and to pick up farm-fresh vegetables.
I don’t own a wagon. Besides my suitcases, the only “rolling” carrier I have is a cooler. Taking the cooler along was both good news and bad news. There was room enough to hold a variety of vegetables, two pumpkins, a jar of pumpkin butter, and my camera case. The bad news was that the cooler was almost too heavy to drag! This seriously curtailed the range of my explorations since I had to drag the cooler back to the car, which was 9 rows south and 35 cars west of the festival entrance. I know this because I counted cars on my way in. The parking area is an unmarked plowed field. The last time I was there, I spent a good deal of time looking for my car!
Being at the festival on such a beautiful day among so many families, farmers, vendors, entertainers, and pumpkins reminded me of how blessed I am to be where I am and who I am at this point in my journey. I thank God for these harvest blessings. Here is a Harvest Blessing from the Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers.
we appeal to your tender care
that even as you temper the winds and rains
to nurture the fruits of the earth
you will also send upon them
the gentle shower of your blessing.
Fill the hearts of your people with gratitude,
that from the earth’s fertility
the hungry may be filled with good things
and the poor and needy proclaim the glory of your name.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
When I was washing the vegetables at home, I noticed that the peppers had stickers on them. If these were farm-fresh vegetables that came from fields not far away, why were there stickers? Looking closer, I saw that the peppers were from Honduras. My first thought was that, with my purchase, a farmer in Honduras could now feed his or her own family. However, I have been reading too much in ecological spirituality to know that this may not necessarily be the case. We in the United States want the same variety of fresh vegetables year round no matter if they are “in season” in the climate in which we live.
This demand has led to large corporations buying up land in the other countries, like Honduras, and producing large quantities of food that is then exported to the United States. We may erroneously believe that we are giving a boost to the local economy of Honduras. It is more likely that this mass production has forced out small farmers who cannot compete with large corporations in a global market. Large-scale production depresses the cost and locally grown produce becomes more expensive for Honduran households. Moreover, the land is often used repeatedly without giving it a chance to lie fallow and recover. A similar situation occurs when the U.S. overproduces food – often with government subsidies – and exports its excess to other countries, making it hard for small farmers to sell their produce locally.
It is next to impossible to know the background and source of all the produce we consume. Buying from local farmers is a good start. Buying produce that is in season in our geographic regions is a step in the right direction. It’s nice to have strawberries from California year round, but transportation even within our own borders contributes to global warming and climate change. Here in Florida, we have to wait only until February, which is our strawberry season.
At the same time that I am grateful for all the harvest blessings, I am becoming more aware of my connections with the people who make it possible for me to enjoy them.
I leave you with selected verses from a song composed by Dan Schutte, called Give Thanks to the Lord (1992). You can find a performance by googling the title and composer.
Give Thanks to the Lord
Give thanks to the Lord who does wondrous deeds
who masters the winds and the raging seas,
Whose love is forever, whose love is forever,
whose love is forever more!
Give thanks to the God who has blessed our land,
who guards ev’ry step with a mighty hand,
Give thanks to the God of the summer rains,
who spreads out the fields and the golden plains,
Give thanks to the Lord who is merciful,
whose kindness is wide and love bountiful
Give thanks to the Lord for the blazing sun,
for great, rolling waves where the dolphins run.