Ontario Agriculture

The network for agriculture in Ontario, Canada

by Rebecca Hannam

The Thanksgiving season is a special time of year for most families. As the sun sets earlier and the temperature begins to cool, families often gather together to celebrate autumn over a special meal or afternoon walk in the turning leaves.

Farming families have special fall traditions too, but they are much different than most.

Fall marks a very important season on the farm – harvest. It’s the final task in a growing season and a time of gathering crops that have reached maturity from the soil. This means hard work and long hours and certainly makes for a humbling family Thanksgiving.

Growing up as the fifth generation on our family grain farm in Guelph/Eramosa Township, I knew at a young age that we were different than most families. While elementary schoolmates shared stories of relaxing meals and family getaways each holiday, I was accustomed to not seeing all of my family members at holiday meal times because they were working in the fields to harvest our soybeans and corn and truck them home to clean and store.

No one knows better than farming families that Mother Nature can be a tough boss. At harvest time this often means a unpredictable work schedule, early mornings, late nights and sometimes working all hours of the night when the weather is about to change.

I treasure my farm childhood memories of helping to prepare and deliver meals to family and neighbours working through the night in the fields. I call these special packages “field suppers” and to a young child, delivery is often a rewarding trip for it usually involves a ride in the passenger seat of the combine cab – a unique type of quality time for farm families.

Although we are statistically a minority in Canada, there is a great sense of community among farmers at this time of year. As farm kids, this always seemed most apparent on morning school bus rides where we shared stories of harvest and the mutual understanding of family sacrifice.

If you’re visiting an apple orchard or pumpkin patch or simply driving through the countryside this fall season, know that farm families are hard at work in rural communities everywhere to gather this year’s crop. Wherever there is a glow of tractor lights in the evening sky, there is someone missing a family gathering, someone packaging the leftover turkey and pumpkin pie for delivery and someone waiting at the door for their loved one to return home.

In Ontario 28,000 families make a livelihood from grain farming. Together we harvest 5 million acres of corn, soybeans and wheat each year. Modern technologies, including harvest machinery, are an important part of growing our crops and enable us to produce the quantities of high quality, safe food required to feed our growing population. But despite all of the technology in the world, farming is a family tradition and is still hard work. Each seed is planted with a prayer in the springtime, nurtured and watched over in the summer and then gathered in the fall. Like our ancestors did before us, we care for our crops and environment 365 days a year and are committed to carrying on our special way of life.

Today I appreciate that although our Thanksgiving traditions are unlike those of most families celebrating the autumn season, ours are shared with the less than one per cent of Canadian families who are proud to be farmers and ours, although different, are special too.

This article is reprinted with the permission of the author, Rebecca Hannam.

Visit Rebecca's Blog AGRICULTURE TOMORROW at http://agriculturetomorrow.wordpress.com/

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