The Thanksgiving myth provides Americans with plenty of icons, some that have grown more troublesome with a new perspective. There are the Pilgrims and the Indians who helped them grow an abundant harvest that first year in Plymouth. There are the turkey and the potatoes that feature prominently on many tables. And let us not forget the pumpkin pie. Never forget the pumpkin pie.
But if there’s a single Thanksgiving icon that resonates in the Pacific Northwest, surely it is the cornucopia centerpiece, a horn of plenty bursting with produce. Washington state is America’s cornucopia.
Washington farmers harvest more than 300 different commodities. From milk and grapes to figs and goats, we grow it all on the state’s 36,000 farms. Most of those are small, family-owned farms. About 800 are organic.
The state is America’s top producer of apples, blueberries, hops, pears, spearmint oil and sweet cherries. It’s also a top grower of apricots, asparagus, grapes, potatoes and raspberries.
Washington’s food has inspired the birth of legendary brands like Carnation, Darigold, Roman Meal, Trident Seafood and even Cinnabon.
The tech and aerospace industries might ebb and flow, but people always need to eat, and agriculture is a cornerstone of the state’s economy. Agriculture and food processing employ more than 164,000 people and produce more than $20 billion in revenue. That’s something to be thankful for.
Our cornucopia spills beyond the state’s borders, too. Railroads and highways link the state to the rest of the country. International ports ship produce and food products to Asia and beyond.
Even global warming won’t stop Washington’s agriculture industry. The Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington forecasts that some crops will do better and others worse with warmer temperatures and more carbon dioxide in the air. The diversity of agriculture now means that farms are adaptable to changing circumstances. The biggest hurdle might be changes in when the rain falls — less in the summer more in the other seasons. There are plenty of other challenges ahead in a warming world, but for now it looks like Washington’s farms, on average, will weather the coming storm.
Bushels, acres and dollars aren’t everything. The best reason to give thanks is the simple joy of living amid such abundance.
With so much fresh produce and protein available, it’s little wonder that Washington is a haven for foodies. Families and gourmands are far from mutually exclusive in this state. Anyone can find ingredients for healthy, farm-fresh meals, especially during the harvest seasons. Just pop on over to a local farmers market — they’re never far — or even a chain grocery store that buys from local growers.
Let the East Coast have Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock. Washington will give thanks for the cornucopia and everything that comes from it.