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Another holiday season has rolled around and the farmers’ market, more than at any other time of year, is the focus of ambitious culinary planning.

Fantastic gourds, pumpkins and squashes catch both the eye and the imagination for table decorations and for use in sweet and savory dishes.

Traditional greens, potatoes, fowl and a host of other produce items are bought or placed on shopping lists for the big day before Thanksgiving market. Farmers and patrons alike prepare themselves for the rush of travel and activity that precede the grand finale that is Thanksgiving dinner. Most people will enjoy participating in a familiar ritual of food preparation and socializing – many, like me, look forward to it all year.

We can only prepare this much food if it takes on an aspect of some kind of offering. We indulge in the plenty that the farmers bring to market especially this week, buy extra, and busy ourselves with time-consuming cooking tasks, none of which are too onerous because we are grateful to be doing them.

We anticipate the pleasures that our hard work will bring, and we work all the harder. This seems in a nutshell to be the reason why farmers have become so energized about the farmers’ markets. They are able to see firsthand the excitement that their fresh produce brings to their many customers.

They enjoy feedback and comments, and like to share recipes and stories from the farm. Their labors on the land, even their trying commutes to market will be talked about and shared with understanding patrons. When we think back to the first Thanksgiving, we are reminded of the sacrifice and hardship that was expiated by a bountiful meal shared with neighbors and kin. Differences, even prejudice and fear, were put aside in the universal act of sharing and eating food. It is a wonderful thing to think of rivals coming together in peace to share the basic necessities of life.

Once the many courses have been tucked in to, I wonder what the topic of conversation will be. Over the past year, especially since last Christmas when news of the tsunami that obliterated entire communities in Indonesia came roaring into our living rooms, the world seems to have become a smaller, more dangerous place.

As we share our peaceful bounty we must be reminded of those who have been rendered homeless and hopeless with no clear view of what the future may bring. We ask ourselves: How can I help? What can I do to change the world?

Certainly the outpouring of charitable donations in the aftermath of the multiple catastrophes that have rocked the world since last Christmas has been an uplifting spectacle for all to see. We know that we are capable as fellow inhabitants of this planet to see where help is needed and direct our own personal resources there. Yet the systemic problems that exacerbated the past year’s events are not as easy to remedy. Inattention to infrastructure, societal unrest, economic inequality and environmental degradation have all contributed in one way or another to make the devastating effects of natural events even worse.

As we come together in peace with friends and family, can we see a way to fix things so that no one is left to struggle unaided?

For most of the year we toil alone. We work in isolation, often forgetting that the rest of the folks out there – those who cut us off in traffic or get in our way in one way or another – are working just as hard as we to get through their day. Lacking understanding of the things other people think are precious (to parapharase Steely Dan) render us judgmental, impatient and non-compassionate. Even those people who are fortunate to be blessed with good health and personal stability get stressed out and can act badly – putting their own convenience above the perceived needs of others.As we come together at the farmers’ market, not only at the holidays but throughout the rest of the year, we can perform acts of multiple benefit: supporting independent family farms, participating in our community and spending our dollars on sustainable causes. Why don’t we all take time this Thanksgiving to remember that the needs of the world go on every day of the year, and that we can all be agents of change and well-being if we can carry the blessings of peace that we share at our communal table with us out into the world tomorrow – and every day until next year.

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