Early fall in the Hood River Valley, Oregon where I live is truly full of excitement!  The valley itself has an extremely rich agricultural heritage that started in 1855 with the planting of the first fruit trees.  Now we have 14,500 acres of pears, apples, and cherries across the valley. Not to mention the acres of blueberries, plums, apricots, peaches and wine grapes.

This inundation of fresh off-the-tree fruit – picked at the peak of perfection and grown with the wisdom passed down through generations – is a powerful reminder of what it means to be nourished by community.

Tasting the fruit grown in this area I cannot help but feel nourished to my soul.  Apples crunching in my mouth with names I have never even heard before and flavor that dazzles.  Pears so subtle, sweet and floral I must be present and relish the taste – feel the fragrance on my tongue and the energy of freshness entering my body.  Plums dripping with juice!! To eat this fruit is to truly to be nourished.  It has the power to draw me back into vivid awareness. Back into my body – to feel more alive.

Behind these experiences of joy and deliciousness, stands the farmer.

I was delighted to hear of a fruit stand tucked away on a quiet road that still had peaches in late September!  I decided to venture out and discovered a remarkable farmer – Lisa – who is on her own personal journey to educate people about the deliciousness of ripe pears.  She grows pears and many other fruits and vegetables on her farm. Because people are so used to buying unripe pears in the grocery store, they don’t even think they like pears.  She teaches people how to know when the pear is ripe.  Gives tastes of each variety so you can find your favorites.  Notes what each variety is best for – canning, baking, eating, drying. And loves to mention her favorite ways to cook with them. Lisa says, if each day she can help one more person to like pears – then it has been a good day!

Lisa also brings together other produce and products from the area.  Potatoes and carrots from a grower a few miles away.  Salad greens and spinach from another. Locally grown cabbage and of course, lots and lots of pumpkins! Reasonably priced, fresh, bursting with flavor and nutrition.

Despite the wildfire smoke that has filled this valley these last years, climate changes, labor issues, market issues and many other factors, our community farmers and the Earth still provide overwhelming abundance!

In these times that seem especially uncertain, the harvest took on a heightened joy for me. The predictability that seasons will flow one into the other and that nature’s abundance will continue to nurture us felt like an embrace from the highest power. As I contemplated how to bring my musing to a meaningful conclusion, tragedy struck at Lisa’s farm. Her mother-in-law’s home was burned to the ground, losing everything – even her dog. Amazingly, the farm stand was spared. It is located just 100 feet away from the skeletal remains of the house. Only two days after the fire, Lisa pushed ahead and opened the farm stand. It was a sobering visit to the stand last weekend as the community turned out to support her family by buying her products, giving hugs, donating, sharing tears and words of encouragement.

I celebrate the harvest by relishing the amazing produce from farmer Lisa and her extended family of growers. As I prepare and enjoy the food for friends and family, I remember her and the tragedy on her farm. I appreciate her incredible drive and resilience, the struggles of my farming neighbors and give thanks for Lisa and all the growers in my area who provide nourishment that feeds the soul.

How do you celebrate the harvest?

-Denyse Corelli