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Stories from the valley

Giving Thanks

Contributed by Dan Macon

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It marks the beginning of my favorite season – I enjoy the short days, the cold weather, and the sense of stocking up and settling in. I appreciate the fact that gratitude represents cultural common ground – all of us can express thankfulness regardless of our religious beliefs or ethnic backgrounds. And I especially love the food!


My preparations for Thanksgiving day begin outside of the kitchen. Late autumn is typically the least busy time of our sheep year – with breeding season over, we’ve combined our breeding groups and our ewe lambs into one flock, which simplifies our chores. Early in the week, we’ll move the sheep to a new pasture large enough to hold them until at least Friday – which means we’ll only need to feed guard dogs and check water troughs before we start preparing dinner on Thanksgiving Day itself. This year, with the wonderful fall rains we’ve had so far in the Sierra Foothills, finding a pasture with enough grass to hold the sheep for 4-5 days won’t be a problem!

As I do every year at this time, I start a mental list of all of the things for which I’m grateful. In addition to the aforementioned grass and wet weather, I’m thankful (as always) for my family – immediate and extended. Like many farmers and ranchers, I’m so lucky to get to work alongside my wife and children. I look back on the times this past year when we worked together with the mix of pride and wonder that only a parent who works with his or her kids gets to experience. I’m grateful to work among so many other farmers and ranchers in Placer County (and throughout Northern California) who bring incredible skill and dedication to the work of growing food. And I’m especially grateful for all of the hands that have touched the food my family will enjoy together on Thanksgiving.

For me, Thanksgiving is an important reminder to honor the work that goes into putting food on the table. I’m so fortunate to be part of this work. I have the chance to be outside, working with livestock, nearly every day. I’m also appreciative of the people who support my work – the folks at the feed store and the fencing supply company, the sheep shearer and the wool broker, the lamb buyers – and, ultimately, the people who eat what I produce. Because the Thanksgiving meal is the centerpiece of celebration for so many of us, what better time to say “thank you” to everyone involved in our food system.

If the weather and the air traffic schedule cooperate, the evening before the holiday we’ll make the trek down the hill to the Sacramento International Airport to pick up our oldest daughter, Lara, who is nearly done with her first semester at Montana State University. The next morning, the girls will join me as I check the sheep – and then we’ll get busy with dinner preparations! And as we gather at our Thanksgiving table, we’ll name aloud the many things and people for which we’re thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!