Sunday, 26 September 2021

Harvesting gratitude

LIVING in a mainly rural area around Henley, we cannot fail to be aware how farming plays a key role in our community.

Perhaps it’s by being held up in the car behind a tractor (and we might have a bit of a grumble at being delayed) or noticing combine harvesters working long hours in the fields from midsummer onwards.

In South Oxfordshire, pigs, sheep and cattle are widely seen. We have farm shops (try the excellent Blue Tin farm shop in Ipsden) and local farmers’ markets too.

Farmers and all those connected with agriculture dedicate their lives to food production, yet too often we take their labour for granted.

They have long working days in every kind of weather, rearing animals (no weekends off from this), tending the fields and living with constant uncertainty about weather conditions.

Not quite the cosy picture portrayed by The Archers... but when we’re in in the supermarket, how often do we think of the hard work by people from across the world, often poorly paid, who produced the food on the shelves?

Here in Ipsden we pray regularly in church for farmers and for “an abundant harvest for all to share”.

And, as in many communities, soon it will be our Harvest Festival and we look forward to welcoming nursery school children with their gifts. Just as we teach children from a young age to say “thank you” and we give thanks at our Harvest Festivals to God for the food we enjoy, so I believe we should also seek opportunities to practise gratitude by sharing our good fortune with others.

We could do this in different ways: buying Fair Trade produce wherever possible, or by donating to Christian Aid, Oxfam and similar

Another deserving charity, the Agricultural Benevolent Institution, provides much- needed support to farm workers in Britain.

In Henley, we can support the Food Bank at the d:two centre or Readifood in Reading just by putting an extra tin or packet from our shopping into the collection point.

Gratitude for all that we enjoy can be expressed in so many ways and in the words of the best-known Harvest hymn:

We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good

The seed-time and the harvest, our life, our health, our food

Accept gifts we offer for all thy love imparts, and, what thou most desirest, our humble, thankful hearts.

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