We Harvest Abundantly More Than Food 

A drive through the countryside in November can reveal what appears to be a barren, denuded landscape.

But this is a landscape of fields, now shorn clean of the corn and soybean crops that grew there. They look tidier than my yard. A farmer could understandably be proud of a cleared cornfield. A cleared field means the harvest is in. All the work put into field prep, planting, fertilizing and weather worries has hopefully culminated in a good yield and a dormant field now at rest before starting the process over again next spring.

But a clear-cut cornfield won’t tell you what the yield was. It might have been a bumper crop or it could have been the poorest crop ever. Success can’t be measured by yield alone. It is affected by the costs involved, time, and the weather. Sounds like a risky business. It is.

But that’s what life is – a risky business supported and enhanced by the things we harvest. We aren’t all farmers but we do all harvest. We harvest oxygen with every breath. We harvest energy from coal, oil and gas as well as the sun, wind and water. We harvest fish from the oceans; we harvest trees from the forests; we harvest minerals and precious metals from the ground.

The Invisible Harvest

Money is what we harvest for our time and effort at work. We might not even see most of our money if it goes directly to the bank and our bills are auto paid. But it’s a harvest, nonetheless. A mostly invisible one.

We also see the harvest of raising kids. The investment is time, effort and money. So, how did they turn out? Did you nurture them properly along the way? Did you encourage them when they needed it? Can they harvest on their own now or are you still supporting them while they live in your basement?

If we didn’t harvest, we would not survive. That certainly is true for food but probably the main thing we harvest is information. We harvest a lot of information just from our five senses. We walk outside to determine if we need a coat. We smell smoke and look for a fire. We hear a tornado siren and know we should head to the top of Memorial Park to watch its approach. Just kidding. Head to your basement. 

Doctors harvest organs from donors for patients who desperately need them. Politicians harvest political capital from a failing by their competition. Personal data is harvested by businesses to determine our preferences for what we might buy, who we might vote for and what we think about anything. Even artificial intelligence (AI) harvests bits of data from vast repositories to create a solution to a problem.

Verifying Our Harvests

We want to know what’s going on so we read and watch the news, and we ask questions. Sometimes we get conflicting information such as on social media. That’s a harvest that needs further winnowing to get to a verifiable conclusion. It’s like a crop that looks good but may be somehow contaminated. It needs to be tested and compared to other crops.

We can’t harvest something that isn’t there. We might need to follow the farming process of planting, nurturing and then harvesting. If we aspire to accomplish great things, we need to first plant dreams and ideas, then nurture them into a life-sustaining harvest. This might require attending school to harvest knowledge and build skills. We even harvest knowledge from our mistakes so we won’t make them again.

We rely so much on harvesting the many things that sustain us that we become complacent, expecting that everything we need will be available whenever we want. But we forget that we must help maintain an environment that will continue to meet the needs of a world whose population is growing.

We are harvesters. We know that the things we need in order to survive will only be available if we don’t destroy them. In 2014, the UN stated that the world might have only 60 years left before our soils are too barren to feed us. This is due to many things, from climate change to farming practices to polluted water.

This Thanksgiving we’ll show our gratitude by celebrating the annual food harvest. But we should also be thankful for the many other things we harvest and pledge to do our part to maintain them.

Future generations will thank us.