Easing Into A Kentucky Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is definitely the time of the year we are thinking more about food and feeling very thankful for what we have access to. And with strong attention to local these days, I am thinking more about ways to support my Kentucky farmers this holiday.

As always, many of my great ideas come a little too late. It's too late to sign up for a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share. There are no farmers' markets open in my area between and now and Thursday, and most of the locally-raised turkeys are promised to buyers that plan their Thanksgiving meals several weeks in advance. But is the route to a true Kentucky Thanksgiving based on the location of where the food was grown or the traditions of my Kentucky family and the recipes that have been handed down by the generations before me? This year my focus will be on the latter, with plans to make local food more of a priority in the future... even if I have to grow it myself.

The First Thanksgiving

On the first Thanksgiving, everything was local. The Wampanoag people of Massachusetts showed the English settlers how to grow foods that thrived in the area, fish and hunt local wild game which helped them survive. Many of the seeds they brought with them did not grow well (wheat was among them, and was not cultivated successfully in America until 1777). Having an abundance of local food was further helped by the time of year, as the first Thanksgiving was said to have happened in early fall, not late November. 

If the first Thanksgiving took place in Kentucky, what would we have been eating? Wild turkey, venison, elk, boar? Ground hog, beaver, squirrel, rabbit? Turtle, catfish, bass? Persimmons, squash, corn, beans, berries, black walnuts? The layout would have been splendid, but obviously come with some very hard work and a lot of luck. Thinking about how long it took our forefathers to hunt, gather and grow all of our food makes me a lot thankful for farmers and our distribution system, aka, a quick trip in a vehicle. I really only have to worry about making the food taste good.

Finding Kentucky Foods

To help identify and find food products in that are grown and/or processed in Kentucky, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has a wonderful program called Kentucky Proud. Many retail stores, roadside and farm markets carry these products. Their website is also full of recipes that you can incorporate into your Thanksgiving dinners.

If you want to find a local turkey, you may have luck here (but no promises). Many thanks to my friends in the Kentucky Food Bloggers Association for helping me compile this list. I'll definitely bring it out again next year, well before Thanksgiving:

Visiting Kentucky Farms

You may also want to celebrate and give thanks this holiday is by connecting with local farmers over the weekend. Another KDA program that helps you find farms to visit is Kentucky Farms are Fun. The farms that are part of the program are open to the public and most likely have markets to purchase local foods and goods. Just be sure to visit the farms' websites to check on hours of operation, as some are not open year-round.

One Step at a Time

While my Thanksgiving may not be all local, providing more Kentucky foods and supporting our farmers is something that I would like to do more of. I may include a bourbon-infused dessert, replace sugar with Kentucky sorghum, and serve some local country ham this year. Next year I may have a freezer full of green beans that my children and I will try to grow in our garden. Kentucky agriculture has so much to offer, and I hope you will take advantage.