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Good Growing

Giving Thanks for Farmers

Thanksgiving spread

Thanksgiving can have a different meaning for all from a celebration of harvest to a time of giving thanks for the blessings of the past year, but as we sit to enjoy the meal prepared, it is important to be reminded of our farmers who work hard to supply us with fresh farm products.    

If turkey is the choice of meat for this year’s Thanksgiving, there is a good chance it came from Minnesota. Minnesota is the top turkey producing state in the US with about 49 million turkeys produced per year. Other key turkey producing states include Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia. If you prefer to purchase a turkey locally but don’t know of any local farmers, you can utilize Illinois Market Maker to find a local producer.

I’m sure you can probably guess where most of the potatoes you’re eating for Thanksgiving came from. If you guessed Idaho, you guessed correctly. Idaho’s growing environment of rich volcanic soil, mountain fed irrigation, warm days, and cool nights provide a perfect growing condition for potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are my favorite Thanksgiving dish; they are also one of the most nutritious foods of Thanksgiving dinner until we add all the butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows. I have North Carolina to thank for providing many of the sweet potatoes that we will get to enjoy this year.

Wisconsin, we have to thank of course for cheese, but the state is also our largest producer of green beans and cranberries. Cranberry plants are a low-growing, woody perennial native to swamps and bogs of northeastern North America. We often associate cranberries with flooded fields; however, fields are only flooded in late fall to protect plants from winter winds and freezing temperatures, to help control winter pests, and to harvest cranberries. If you ever have the chance to fly over Minnesota in the fall, the bright red, flooded cranberry fields from the plane is a beautiful sight.

And of course, we save the best for last, pumpkin pie! Here in Illinois we can easily support a local pumpkin farmer as Illinois is ranked #1 for pumpkin production. Morton, Illinois is considered the pumpkin capital of the world producing ninety percent of the pumpkin in the US.

Although you purchased the food you prepared from the grocery store, it is important to consider where that food came from and the work that went into producing it; perhaps you may be all the more thankful.

Good Growing Tip: Again, if you are interested in supporting local farmers or want to learn what is being grown by your local farmers, you can visit Illinois Market Maker to explore what is available near you. 



Katie Parker is a Local Foods and Small Farms Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Adams, Brown, Hancock, Pike, and Schuyler counties. Katie provides programming with an emphasis on row crop production, soil fertility, composting, vegetable production, and ornamental horticulture.

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