Thanking family farmers on Thanksgiving.

It's Matt again and this month in Putting it into Practice, I get to talk about my favorite holiday: Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving — there's no gift-shopping to stress out about and no costumes to worry about making or buying — just a pure celebration of family, food, and appreciation for all that we are so lucky to have.

Food at Thanksgiving is always near the front of our minds. You see it in newspapers starting a few weeks ahead with all the tips on making your family happy with the best turkey and classic side-dishes. It takes a lot of planning and organization: Who’s getting the turkey (and from where)? Who’s making pie and what kind? Sweet potatoes? No marshmallows or other funny business, please! Stuffing: soggy or crispy? (Both!) All those details will work out one way or another; most of us leave the Thanksgiving table satisfied with a full belly, in any case. While we share laughter, memories, thanks, and thoughts, we should all try to take a moment and remember the importance of family farmers and their hard work growing the food we all enjoy.

This year, I'll be enjoying Thanksgiving at my mother's house again after missing out the last few years. We'll enjoy a turkey raised locally at a nearby farm and apple orchard, local squash, and I'll have to work some sausage from my meat CSA into the stuffing. To keep track of everyone's contribution (it will definitely be a team effort!), I'll be printing out Farm Aid's Thanksgiving menu template to honor the chefs in my family and as a way to remind us all to thank family farmers for what they do all year long. Click here to print your own menu.

I wanted to find out how other Farm Aid staff members will be spending their Thanksgiving and see the different ways that people can support and give thanks to family farmers, so here are their responses.

Jessica: I am thankful for the opportunity to work for a great organization like Farm Aid, and to frequently be able to learn from and listen to American family farmers. This year, my family’s Thanksgiving dinner will be held at my Aunt’s house, and I plan on bringing a butternut squash risotto dish made from squash and onions from my local farmers market. Also, since I am pretty talkative, I plan to strike up some conversations with my family and friends about where our Thanksgiving meals came from. I think that having discussions with your family and friends about what’s going on in the US food system is a good way to start inspiring action and change!

Carolyn: I'll be cooking a Thanksgiving meal for 15-20 people with a turkey from Brookwood Community Farm and a ham from Patchwork Family Farms (longtime supplier of delicious food at Farm Aid concerts). I'll also be scouring late-season farmers markets for the best potatoes, squash, rutabagas and turnips.

Cornelia: giant squashI get to celebrate my favorite holiday twice! Thanksgiving day will be spent with my husband's family south of Boston, and then my family is kind enough to delay turkey day until Friday when we join them up north for a feast. This year, I am taking one half of the giant Blue Hubbard squash from my Parker Farm CSA share to each Thanksgiving. I'll be cutting the thing in half with a band saw, then roasting each half with lots of home made butter, maple syrup and rosemary. We will raise our forks in thanks to Farmer Steve, and we'll tell at least one story about my Grampa who farmed in Iowa.

Kari: Last year was the first year we purchased a locally raised, free-range, organic turkey. First and foremost, I made the switch because I was able to support a local family farmer. My husband and I both come from a long line of farmers, and the best part about Thanksgiving is family! Unfortunately, we aren't able to go home to the Midwest for the holiday, so this is another way for us to honor our connection to not only our personal histories, but family farmers too. The selfish part of buying our turkey is how amazing it tastes! It was by far the best tasting bird I've ever had. I had a tryptophan-induced coma last year to prove it.

Jen: I'm not hosting Thanksgiving this year, but I'm bringing dishes inspired by the good stuff in my CSA share. The past few weeks have brought loads of fall and winter vegetables, including squash, turnips, spinach, fennel, carrots and parsnips. I've been hoarding the root veggies that stay fresh in the crisper so that I'll have enough to bring loads of side dishes! A mile from my house is a great farmstand where I can get the other ingredients I need, from herbs to local cream and cheese.

I've found a parsnip gratin recipe that will put my mandoline to work and result in a dish that my nieces and nephews may not even recognize as a vegetable. Other than that cream-filled dish, I'm trying to stay minimal and true to the flavors of the yummy fresh vegetables. Raw carrots shredded with a squeeze of citrus and a handful of cranberries will be a nice salad, but I might go with a fennel and celery salad instead (I love fennel--many folks use fennel for seasoning, but raw or roasted, whole fennel is amazing as a vegetable dish.).

Tomorrow is CSA pickup day and I'm hoping for a sugar pumpkin for a pie—otherwise I'll be heading to the fridge for the rest of the apples I picked in early fall for an apple pie. Mmmmmm... Thanksgiving is the tastiest holiday!

Anna: As the lone vegetarian at my Thanksgiving table, I like to prepare something substantial. I swing by my favorite New Hampshire farm and pick out the perfect butternut squash on the way to my folks' house. Then I get to work! It has become my tradition to turn that squash into homemade butternut squash ravioli each Thanksgiving.

Joanna: I'll be going to different family's houses to celebrate, with lots of food to bring for sharing. I pick up potatoes for baking and roasting and any other vegetables they might have at Scimoni Farm in Bedford. It's run by a third-generation farmer who went to school with my mother-in-law, so it's nice to keep a local tradition going. I love roasting root vegetables with different types of squash, depending on what's available, but boiled onions in a buttery milk sauce are always my favorite Thanksgiving dish. I'm proud to get as much as possible from local farmers to honor the farmers and self-reliant gardeners in my family's past.

Joel: Although I'm not a vegetarian, a few years back I was invited to a vegan Thanksgiving and had an absolutely fantastic feast all made with local ingredients. (Though I'm not sure everyone at the table was too keen on having "Super-Size Me" playing on the TV in the living room!) My point is that if you're thinking of having turkey, but don't have access to a locally and humanely-raised bird, think twice before using your hard earned dollars to support factory farms' near-monopoly on poultry production! There are excellent, healthy, and ethical alternatives worth giving thanks for this year.

Hilde: I'm looking forward to enjoying the season's harvest with my family in Utah, and celebrating the family farmers and land who make it possible. With more and more local food becoming accessible in my homestate, I have a hunch it is going to be one of the tastiest Thanksgivings yet!

Be sure to check out our Thanksgiving page to print your menu and see our staff members' favorite recipes.

Join the Conversation

How will you celebrate Thanksgiving this year? Please share in the comments!

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