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Commentary: Come Ye Thankful People Come

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By Gary Truitt

“Come, ye thankful people, come, Raise the song of harvest home! All is safely gathered in,

Ere the winter storms begin; God, our Maker, doth provide.  For our wants to be supplied;

Come to God’s own temple, come; Raise the song of harvest home!”

This was penned in 1844 by British clergyman Henry Alford and is one of the few Thanksgiving holiday songs we have today. It seems that as soon as we get past Halloween, the Christmas songs begin.

Originally published under the title Harvest Song, the hymn captures the inseparable connection between a bountiful harvest and the hard work and heartache that took place during the growing season and God’s hand in the process. “We ourselves are God’s own field, Fruit unto his praise to yield; Wheat and tares together sown Unto joy or sorrow grown; First the blade and then the ear, Then the full corn shall appear; Grant, O harvest Lord, that we Wholesome grain and pure may be.”

Today in the U.S., with so few people having any connection to agriculture and such widespread ignorance about where food comes from and how it is produced, it is not surprising that the concept of being thankful for a harvest is lost on most people. The Thanksgiving holiday is about eating, overeating, getting together with family or friends, watching sports, and starting Christmas shopping. With all food items being available in our stores year round, the concept of a growing season is not a reality for most.

It is estimated that 535 million pounds of turkey will be consumed on Thanksgiving with little thought given to where it came from. Some may worry if it was “happy” during its life, but no further. It is the success of American agriculture that makes the traditional Thanksgiving celebration possible, Fancy some cranberry sauce with your turkey? It is forecast that 841 million pounds of cranberries will be produced in the U.S. this year. Pumpkin pie is a traditional dessert; and, in 2014, the U.S. produced 1.31 billion pounds of pumpkin. That’s a staggering 600,000 metric tons.

For farm families, Thanksgiving has a slightly different focus. This year, most in the Midwest will be giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. While prices are down, corn and soybean yields were very good. While some crops remain in the field, harvest is nearing the end and, for the most part, has gone well. Farmers understand the concept of a growing season and life cycles.

So this week let us “Come, ye thankful people, come, Raise the song of harvest home!” and give thanks for the bountiful harvest in our bins and barns as well as on our dinner tables and for all who made it possible.