This month.....

With thanksgiving for the harvest in all its forms

The busyness of life often picks up once the schools have gone back after the summer holidays. It seems that no sooner are the children back and settled we have Harvest Festivals, often in October, then November brings a whole series of Remembrance focused events. December has preparations for and the celebration of Christmas with perhaps a little rest before we dive into the New Year with so many people taking up new endeavours (and sometimes putting them down quickly too). Then that moveable feast, Shrove Tuesday (or Jif Lemon day as it was once advertised) before we enter into Lent as we travel towards Easter.

Phew that’s a busy 6 or more months to look forward to; I can feel quite exhausted just thinking of all that coming up. But lets not run ahead of ourselves too far. One of the secrets of distance running is to think about the goal and what pace one is going to run before the race and prepare for that but within the race to set a series of goals:  trying to get past a particular person gradually over the next couple of miles or looking out for a well known landmark, or being aware of such a landmark so you can ignore it if that helps.

So lets not look too far ahead now, lets just think of Harvest.

Every year I’m aware of when harvest starts and how long it can take. I’m not a farmer, and farming stock in my family is quite a few generations ago, so I’m not fully aware of the difficulties farmers face but I am aware that not only does the weather significantly affect when a crop is ready but it can also affect when it can be harvested. A farmer doesn’t want to harvest a wet crop if a few days of patience and some dry warm weather will reduce the moisture in the crop.

I can remember one year in Leicestershire, it was about 5 or 6 years ago, we had had a wet late summer and early autumn and not only was the crop wet but the soil was sodden too so farmers couldn’t get heavy equipment such as combine harvesters onto the fields. I remember driving through my part of the county in mid October and seeing the lights of combine harvesters working into the early hours, as long as the dew held off, to get the harvest in. We didn’t have many farmers in Church for Harvest Festival services that year as they were still working hard to get the Harvest in and if not out in the field they were probably catching up with sleep after many late nights.

Harvest used to be a major community event. Children’s summer holidays were not for relaxation, but they were needed in the labour force to help in the days before any mechanisation. I bet in those days children longed to be back at school for a rest! And when the harvest had been gathered and was safely stored away the community would join together to celebrate harvest home. The community would have some sense of what prosperity or poverty they would face in the coming 12 months depended on the quality and quantity of the harvest.

Nowadays we are so used to getting food from all over the world that seasonal dishes are *not a necessity but more of a remembrance of times past. As a child I remember food coming into and out of season and we looked forward to favourites that would have been on the menu for only a few weeks each year. As we take seriously issues of climate change we will need to consider making the most of seasonal food. I think that there will be a lot to be gained by doing so, not least a real appreciation of those seasonal foods and all those ‘good gifts around us’.

At harvest we naturally give thanks for the harvest and are led into a deeper appreciation of all the good things we have and in so doing we thank God for all those involved in the production of the things we enjoy: for farmers, those involved in distribution and food processing, those who work in retail and hospitality. But we needn’t stop at food for there are so many things that the skills of others produce that we enjoy. So we thank God for all those whose skill and industry bring us the things we enjoy and we thank God for them.

So this harvest let us again commit ourselves to being more aware of all those involved in our economy and more grateful to them for all that they do.

Thank God for the harvest of human labour.

Richard Curtis