The Thanksgiving holiday serves to focus our attention on man’s relationship with nature. In a celebration of the fall harvest, we express our appreciation for the bounty we have received.

In American tradition, the Pilgrims’ survival in the New World was enabled by the Native Americans, with whom they joined in a great feast of thanks. Every year Americans set aside a day to hold their own feast of Thanksgiving which features traditional foods that are native to the Americas, such as, turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn, turnips, and pumpkin pie.

Our celebration of Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to reinforce our connection, not only with the earth which still provides us with such a bounty but also the members of our community who have made raising these foods their life’s work. While opening a can of yams, defrosting a frozen industrial turkey and buying a boxed pumpkin pie may have meaning in continuing some parts of the Thanksgiving tradition, I suggest we celebrate our relationship with the present as well as the past by making an extra effort to eat as many of these traditional foods from local, humanely raised sources as possible. Here in the Northeast that is pretty easy for most of the meal, but what about the turkey?

Finding a fresh, naturally raised turkey will take a little extra effort. These birds are not yet so easy to come by, but what a difference it will make to our celebration.

What could be unnatural about the supermarket turkey we bought last year? For a frank (not for the faint-of-heart) online look at turkey breeding procedures, go here. If you want to learn more than you’ll probably ever need to know about natural turkey life and behavior, including intimate details about turkey sex, read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I suggest you read it even if you aren’t motivated by that last statement — it’s a great book, and the turkey sex is only one small part (no pun intended).

If you have a resource for non-industrial turkeys, please share it here in the comments section.

And let’s not forget that generosity is also a hallmark of the American Thanksgiving tradition. Just as the native Americans unselfishly helped their new immigrant neighbors survive the winter, I will be contributing to local efforts to feed those who are in need by working with my local food rescue organization, Island Harvest.