One of the best things about living in an agricultural area is access to farm stands! Fresh produce is never far from anyone in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Local, organic veggies are more delicious and often less expensive than what you’ll find at grocery stores. Plus, by supporting local farm stands, you are also supporting small, independent farmers, which falls beautifully into a fair way of life.
Thanksgiving is all about gathering with friends and family around a meal large enough to fill every belly, which leaves a lot of opportunity to support farmers. Keep in mind that, in addition to the food you buy, you can make responsible choices in how you decorate too.
A handcrafted cornucopia from a fair trade workshop is a great place to start. The word cornucopia comes from Latin, meaning horn of plenty, and has been associated with Thanksgiving since the pilgrims first inhabited North America. The symbolic meaning of the cornucopia can be traced back to Greek mythology. The legend goes that the goat Amalthea cared for the mighty god Zeus in his infancy. Because of his unusual strength, he accidentally broke one of her horns. Amalthea’s horn became a source of unending nourishment, and over time, the horn of plenty became a well-known symbol of abundance and a bountiful harvest, which is why the symbol was adopted for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Noah’s Ark workshop in Moradabad, India keeps metalworking skills alive by translating traditional techniques into modern designs that are marketable in the United States. So even though Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in India, items intended for use at American holidays— like a copper-colored cornucopia— are still important to their businesses. This cornucopia helps makers like Intezar Hussain provide for his family (pictured above). Even though he doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, the cornucopia represents nourishment in a different way.
Here are five tips on how to shop for everything you need to create responsibly sourced cornucopia centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table, using items you can find at your local farm stand:
1. Dress for the weather
Most farm stands are at least partially outdoors. Wear something you can wrap up in, just in case autumn decides to be a little nippy.
2. Bring baskets
Another thing to consider is that most farm stands do not provide shopping carts or baskets like grocery stores do. If you have a long shopping list, be sure to bring a basket with a handle that you can easily carry in and out of narrow aisles.
3. It doesn’t have to be perfect
Part of the charm of shopping at a farmers’ market is finding strangely shaped and speckled produce. Whether it’s a pumpkin that’s oblong and blue or a tomato that’s striped and as big as your face, nature isn’t perfect. Your centerpiece shouldn’t be either. Choosing the most unique pieces at the market will add interest and intrigue to your Thanksgiving decorating.
4. Choose different shapes and sizes
You’ll have a much easier time fitting everything inside your cornucopia if you choose a variety of items. Colorful flint corn is a good item to start with because it’s likely to fill a large portion of the cornucopia. Once your corn is in place, you can fill in the gaps with small gourds, apples, pears and mini pumpkins. Leave the smallest fall flowers for the final layer because they can easily be tucked into tiny places in between everything else. Marigolds, sunflowers and mums are great choices for fall decorating. And once the holiday is over, just toss your produce outside for the animals to enjoy. If you’re lucky, some seeds might sprout up next year and you can have a little garden of your own.
5. Bring cash
Most farmers’ markets don’t accept credit cards, so come prepared with paper money.
Thanksgiving is all about remembering what we’re thankful for. We are thankful to have such easy access to food, and the means to pay for that food. Let the cornucopia be a reminder of the wonderful abundance all around us. Embrace the historic symbolism that it holds, along with what it represents in our current day—the opportunity to provide meaningful work and fair wages to someone we may never meet.