Semler: We have plenty to be thankful for

November 24, 2009|By JEFF SEMLER

Two days from today, we will celebrate the most American of holidays and that is Thanksgiving. Regardless of your current situation, you have plenty to be thankful for and I trust you are.

Many will huddle around tables planning a shopping strategy for the next day with sales fliers spread before them.

Still others will feign watching football while napping.

But most will, at some point in the day, gather with family and friends and feast.

Before you dig in, take a moment to go around the table and share what you are thankful for this year. It won't kill you and it will actually be good for you. Then dig into the bounty of the land.

Yes bounty of the land, as Gene Logsdon reminds us "All Flesh is Grass." Whether you are enjoying turkey, ham, sweet potatoes or stuffing, it had its beginnings in the soil.


And for those who want to take Gene's statement literally, all our grains except for the soybean are grasses. Yes, the corn fed to the turkey and the pig and the wheat used to bake the bread that became stuffing are all in the grass family.

As we reflect on this holiday, we often remember what we think of as the first Thanksgiving in the Massachusetts Bay colony.

At that point in our history, we were still living in peaceful coexistence with the Native Americans in their neighborhood to the point that they invited us for dinner. Unlike the Virginia Company that came to the new world with an eye on making money, the Massachusetts Bay colony, or Pilgrims as they came to be known, came to escape religious persecution.

Nevertheless, if you were in New England, the Mid-Atlantic or the South, you were most likely a farmer. We must understand in the 18th century very few people had just one occupation. You might have been a blacksmith or a cabinet maker but you were probably also a farmer.

If you were to meet Thomas Jefferson, he would have told you he was a farmer. He collected and propagated plants from around the world. Explorers Lewis and Clark were under strict instruction to bring back plants and seeds back with them.

While most of us don't grow what we will eat on Thanksgiving, the fare on the first Thanksgiving gave rise to the term local food. Below is a record of the menu as kept by Edward Winslow, governor of the Plymouth Colony:

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

So as you sit down with for feast this Thanksgiving day, reflect on the words of Melody Beattie, "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."

Happy Thanksgiving.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at

The Herald-Mail Articles