One of the highlights of my summer holiday was visiting the Great Dorset Steam Fair. Along with all the impressive steam powered fairground rides and organs there was also a farming section, with a great array of stationary engines, which used to drive all manner of farm machinery. There were also tractors and in the adjoining field you could see teams of horses, under the direction of a skilled ploughman, prepared the ground for sowing.
Farming in the old days involved vast numbers of people. If you read theSussexnovels of Sheila Kaye Smith she provides some beautiful descriptions of the farming festivities aroundBattlein the days when horses were in use on every farm. Farming was a precarious business and there were big celebratory gatherings at the safe conclusion of the haying, sheep shearing and harvest with the farmer, stockman, ploughman, shepherd, field labourers and their wives and children. At harvest thanksgiving songs, which we have now forgotten, such as the ‘Holering Pot’, were sung:
‘We’ve ploughed, we’ve sowed, we’ve reaped, we’ve mowed,
We carried the last load, and never overthrowed.
Hip, Hip, Hurrah! Hurrah!’
Farming is a lonely business these days and very few people are involved in it. Sadly lots of people have only the most tenuous of idea where their food comes from and of the care that goes into producing it. Nevertheless in a world where so many still go hungry we need to count our blessings and use Harvest as a time of thanksgiving. As the prophet Joel reminds us ‘You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.’ (Joel 2:27)
The Bible also stresses that farmers should not reap their fields to the very border, so that there would be food for the poor to collect. (Leviticus 19:10). We don’t live in a settled farming world anymore, but Harvest Festival continues to remind us to look out for others. Our own harvest gifts will be going to XTRAX, a charity which helps vulnerable young people inHastings.
Posted By: valerie