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Thanksgiving Lessons from the Pilgrims

It’s Thanksgiving Week and at On Pasture, we’re grateful for the lessons we can take from that first celebration centuries ago, and the people that made it possible.

1. Listen to experts.

As the first extension agent in the New World, Squanto taught the Pilgrims the skills they needed to survive. And that’s our first Thanksgiving lesson – listen to the experts and participate in programs that benefit you and the land you care for, just as the pilgrims did, and like Cornelius Joe does though the Conservation Stewardship program.

Conservation Stewardship Program Helps This Grazier Hit His Conservation Goals

2. Building relationships, especially with those different from us, ensures survival.

That first Thanksgiving, celebrated not only the harvest, but the relationship between the Pilgrims and their Wampanoag neighbors, providing another Thanksgiving lesson: we all survive because of relationships and the work others do that we might not even be aware of. As an example, here are plants that survive thanks to the work of soil microbes.

Hungry Plants Order Up Iron From Soil Microbes

3. Try new foods.

Corn was probably on the menu for that first Thanksgiving. It was a new food for the settlers, provided to them by their Wampanoag neighbors. The lesson here: maybe we should occasionally try new foods, though I’m still not sure about eating fly larvae as this Australian scientist suggests.

Black Soldier Fly Larvae – It’s What’s For Dinner

4. Write things down.

We don’t know exactly when the first Thanksgiving took place because no one wrote it down. Our lesson: write things down, even if it’s just a short journal entry: “Thanksgiving, ate turkey, tried corn for the first time. It was good.” You’ll find, as Don Ashford does, that even the briefest of entries bring a flood of good memories.

Journaling – Another Kind of Record Keeping

5. Have a plan.

Finally, the first settlers probably would have done a little better if they’d had a plan and developed some farming skills before they arrived. It’s an important reminder today too as we take a pasture walk with Greg Judy and learn how his drought plan helped him survive.

A Fall, Post-Drought Pasture Walk at Greg and Jan Judy’s Green Pastures Farm

6. Don’t forget to laugh.

Those early settlers seemed to put the “grim” in Pilgrim. But surely they laughed and had fun from time to time. So here’s a Thanksgiving giggle for you.

Looking for A Big Turkey?

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

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