Thanksgiving: Lessons in Sustainability from the Pilgrims


As you gather your family around the Thanksgiving table this year, consider these lessons from those who shared the first!


When the Pilgrims first stepped off the boats near Plymouth, after 66 days at sea, I’m sure at least a few of them kissed that ground… many did it out of thanks to be on something solid again, but perhaps many more kissed the ground in gratitude that they could get back to growing and foraging again because the “fresh” in their food supply had run out two months prior! And, those early colonists were smart – they brought with them many seeds to start for they knew that no community is ever truly sustainable or complete without a garden growing.

On this lesson, those Pilgrims actually failed miserably their first year. David Rockwell iPAD 1.33_ROUGH IDEA SKETCHThe Pilgrims were new to the area, and, despite all their good intentions, hadn’t the slightest clue how the seasons played out. The Native Wampanoag people, on the other hand, had been fishing, hunting, and harvesting in the southeastern Massachusetts area for generations. They knew when to plant and when to harvest. They knew where the soil was good, and where the fish were plentiful.
In all reality, the native people bailed the colonists out those first couple years! Give Thanks indeed!
What can we learn from this story? If you want to thrive where you live, then grow your own food. And, if you want to grow your own food, get to know what the best growers in your area already know… when to grow what. Thankfully, that information is much more accessible today than ever before thanks to modern technology and online garden planner like the ones we have at Agriscaping. You can learn more at our next free online class: 7 Simple Steps to Homestead Planning on Any-sized property.

That’s right, the first Thanksgiving showed us something we all seem to know in our gut – that food has a natural way to bring people together. It also showed us the power of an interactive, education-based COMMUNITY in creating sustainability. When Samoset, a leader of the Abenaki and Tisquantum (aka “Squanto”) from the Wampanoag visited the Plymouth Colony, they offered first their knowledge of the land and helped the colonists learn how to get their corn growing quickly using fish as fertilizer (and I’m sure it was a non-GMO corn back then). That initial act of sharing food-growing secrets ignited a whole new world of collaboration. Within a short time their meetings led to a formal agreement in March of 1621 between the settlers and the native people to protect each other from both starvation and the marauding tribes of the time. Find out how you can help grow a healthy, sustainable, food-based community where you live CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE.

The spread on the table at the first Thanksgiving was a bit different than our modern American one. Back then, the food came fresh from the land. There was no annual ritual to thaw out a spring turkey, crack open a can of cranberries, crumble cheese crackers and cornflakes over green bean casseroles, nor did they ever rip open a bag of marshmallows to top-off the sweet potatoes. That first Thanksgiving consisted of deer meat, corn, shellfish, and “roasted meat” (which makes me wonder if the deer meat was eaten raw?). And, perhaps I know what you’re thinking… “No stuffing?!” Nope, the meals back then were simply prepared with what they had on-hand, straight from the land.
Today, people are starting to wise-up! We are aligning our meals with what’s actually in-season in our LOCAL areas! So, what’s in-season where YOU live? Try adding some of THAT to your Thanksgiving tradition! For on-going ideas on what to make with what’s in-season, check out communities like Eat-Grow-Share (CLICK HERE)

The first religious-based Thanksgiving, where I’m sure a few more prayers of thanks were given, was actually two years after the first in the fall of 1623 when the colonists truly gave thanks to God for the rain they received after a two-month drought.
Today, two months of drought should not slow the water coming out of your tap. We’ve learned a lot about water storage and purification since those early colonial days, but our need to creatively conserve it has not diminished! Water is still a fundamental necessity for all life to thrive here on planet Earth and with gratitude we can all do a little better to keep that water moving to where it can do the most good!
If the Pilgrims in 1623 had a daily shower I’m sure every drop of water would have been put right back into their garden. Perhaps you could too? For us, that might be as simple as putting a 5-gallon bucket in the shower as we wait for the water to warm up, or perhaps re-plumbing our showers and other grey-water sources back into our gardens like these people have done: Local pros are also available to help make it happen for you HERE.

When in doubt…
Keep Growing!
Give Thanks!

Lessons from the Pilgrims