Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Harvest Thanksgiving Celebration

The Harvest Thanksgiving Celebration (HTC) is a 2-day festival that ARI hosts every year to celebrate and give thanks for the year's harvest. This theme for this year was "Harvest for Love, Sustain for Tomorrow," an especially appropriate theme considering the sensitivity of ARI's food production in response to the 2011 earthquake and subsequent radiation contamination. So in all our preparations, we meditated on this theme to inform our efforts.

The event is also a part of the participants' training course--an exercise in event planning and implementation. People from all around come to visit the ARI campus and enjoy food from other countries. There was a worship service Saturday and Sunday to begin the festivities for the day. And each afternoon there was a performance show where community members sang songs and shared dances from their unique cultures. This year we had about 1,500 people come visit!

serious planning sessions

We spent all of our time last week working with our committees to prepare for HTC. The only farm work we did was during foodlife time, the hour before breakfast and dinner.

Doug worked with the logistics and worship committee (Great Angels). They prepared signs, set up tents, and transported and placed chairs and tables for everyone to use. They made bookmarks to hand out to everyone and they prepared the orders of worship for the two services.

Jenny worked with the food committee (Cordon Bleu). They were in charge of taking inventory of all food we had on the farm, harvesting what we needed, shopping for all the rest of the food, and making sure all was in the right place when the time came for everyone to cook their dishes.

Wilson preparing the game area for the kids
There was also a fun and games committee (Manigo) that organized activities and demonstrations for the children. Also there was a stage and performance committee (Sparkling Moon Flower) that constructed the stage, put up decorations, and organized the cultural performances.

By the end of the week our campus was ready to receive our guests. The stage was up. Signs were set. Eating places were in place. Food was organized and ready to be cooked. And our cultural performances were rehearsed (for the most part). :)

Friday night, people began to prepare the food. Many of us woke up early on Saturday to begin cooking. All the dishes had to be prepared before 8:00am. We were also cooking to feed ourselves breakfast at the same time. The kitchen was a crazy place to be.

Joe cooking eggs for our breakfast Saturday morning.

At the worship service on Saturday, everyone was encouraged to wear their cultural clothes. Jenny was gifted a Liberian dress by Comfort. Comfort was also one of the chief organizers for HTC. She worked with the Japanese participant, Yuta to organize and direct the efforts of all the committees. 
Jenny and Comfort in Liberian dress
During the worship service Doug was working with the other Liberian participant, Alex. They were ushers, handing out the orders of service and bookmarks that they had prepared during the week. At the point in the service where an offering is brought forward and placed on the altar, participants brought forward lots of vegetables which they had harvested from their fields.

The Food 

food organized and ready to be cooked

cooking cookies

The food at HTC was probably where the most time and energy was spent. Participants and volunteers prepared food from their cultures. There were noodles from the Philippines, sweet potato fries from America, fish from Japan, nsima (corn paste) from Malawi, fish bread from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Comfort, from Liberia, made peanut stew. We had three different curries from Sri Lanka, India, and Indonesia. Jenny and I helped make chocolate chip cookies for another American contribution. I drank plenty of Masala tea from India. Nishanta and Niro of Sri Lanka made milk rice and some kind of amazingly delicious pancake with carrots inside. Needless to say, our taste buds did some traveling!

our second kitchen full on busy
Late night preping sweet potatoes for baking the next morning with rosemary 
Kitchen chaos smells great 
Fish bread, just bread in the shape of fish!
Most of the cooking was done late at night and early in the morning. So some people went to bed near midnight and woke up to start cooking at 3 in the morning. On Sunday, Jenny and I were sitting around a big pot of honey pork when the sun came up. All of the food for the day had to be ready by 8 o'clock. This way, we could focus on selling and enjoying it with our guests when lunch came around. 
Late-night making fish bread from the Congo
The logistics committee set up a food court around the outside of the New Koinonia House. Take a stroll around the food court:

Adarsh from India and Donata form Germany dressed in their traditional garb. 

Fish bread for sale!

One of the food committee tasks was to wash all the dishes of the 1,500 people eating.  Thanks to their work our  garbage was significantly reduced by 1,500 plates, cups, and chopsticks.
 The Cultural Performances 
Minngo's gospel choir performing
Since we've started the planning for HTC we've been working on our cultural performances. Many of the participants taught dances from their home countries

Bahtak dance

Doug and Tommi reading their organic poetry and translations


Creole song!

Korean song

Minngos choir 

Monday morning we worked a half day to clean up after the celebration. After lunch we rested, and all day Tuesday we rested as well. Everyone received a “weekend” assignment so that we could keep the farm running and the food cooking. Jenny and I cooked lunch on Tuesday. Now we are resting, reflecting on a job well done.  


  1. Hi Doug and Jenny. Thank you for this wonderful report. My husband and I volunteered at ARI in 2010. We plan to return next year for 2 months and be part of HTC. I identify so much with your observations and the feeling of family you are finding there in that wonderful place called ARI.

  2. Thank you, Joyce! We will be at ARI until the beginning of next August, we will probably just miss you! Thanks for reading!