Walking out of my office is like opening an oven. The heat is a wall, strong, searing; there is a scent similar to baking bread rising from the grass that is toasting under the sun's unrelenting rays. My drive home takes me past farms along Route 5 in Deerfield: potatoes, tobacco, and corn growing strong and green despite the heat. We are not experiencing a drought; in fact the other day a thunderstorm hit on the way home with wind and rain so strong visibility was brought down to just a few feet. I am sure the rain was welcome just the same. 

    I think often of the local farmers. I am grateful for the countless hours they spend at their vocation and I recognize that it is a life I could not live. My own grandparents were farmers and factory workers, supplementing a life of hard work and unpredictable yield with wages earned by working in a foundry. Hard work and luck seem to be the mantra for farmers. Hard work, luck, technology, and engineering, farmers rely on many factors to answer their calling to serve. How did my grandparents manage? And their grandparents, and theirs? Go back generations, centuries, eras, and eventually everyone's forebears were farmers of a sort. They had only their own hard work, luck, and the grace of the gods to ensure plenty. 

    Our foremothers cultivated the edible wild plants that rounded out trapping and hunting. By observing growing cycles and tracking the seasons and the moon the first farms were born. Today we know the sun will rise again he morning after the Longest Night; we know that seeds planted will grown even if we don't make an offering of ewe's milk at Imbolc (though it couldn't hurt). However, despite what is now common knowledge and all of the technology available, farmers today still don't know if those seeds they plant will thrive. There is no guarantee that a successful harvest will follow seasons of backbreaking labor. Too much rain, not enough rain, summer hailstorms, late spring frosts, blight--today's farmers run the same gauntlet their ancestors did. They still track the seasons, the old-fashioned ones still plant by the moon. Really, over the last 3000 years all that has changed about farming are the preservation methods. The bare-bones fundamentals are still the same: till, plant, tend, and pray. Pray for rain, but not too much. Pray the plants won't be struck by disease, pray the harvest will be ample enough to make a profit and your bills will be paid, offer praise and thanksgiving as you reap what was sown. 

    One day I will have a garden fragrant with herbs and the sharp green scent of tomato plants. In the meantime I have pots of green growing things on my back steps, growing from seeds started at Beltane. My family's well-being doesn't depend on the squash and tomatoes I harvest from my little potted garden, but we all delight in the savor of a fresh-picked sun-warmed tomato and the crunch of sweet snap peas. We live in a magical world where fresh fruit and vegetables are available year-round and meat is butchered and ready for us to cook. Strolling through a brightly lit grocery store well-stocked with a rainbow of colorful boxes and packages it is too easy to forget that everything on the shelves is the result of farmers' grueling work. I have often reminded my children to be thankful for what is available to us: too many people do not have the luxury of a fresh apple in January or grapes year-round, oftentimes including the people that harvested that food. 

    As we gathered around the table for our Lughnasadh dinner, we joined hands and offered thanks for the food we had before us and for the work of the individuals that provided us with that bounty. 

                                          "The food we are about to eat

                                            is Earth, Water, and Sun compounded through the alchemy of many plants.

                                            Therefore, Earth, Water, and Sun will become part of us.

                                            This food is also the fruit of the labor of many beings and creatures.

                                            We are grateful for it.

                                            May it give us strength, health, joy

                                            And may it increase our love."

 

                                  "Earth, Water, Air, and Fire combined to make this food.

                                   Numberless beings have died and labored that we may eat.

                                   May we be nourished that we may nourish life."

 

    As you celebrate the first of the harvest festivals and look ahead to Mabon, pause for a moment and offer thanks not just to the gods who brought forth the harvest, but also to the farmers who brought it to your table. 

    Many Blessings to you and yours.