Practicing An Honorable Harvest

Happy Harvest Moon! It’s also Friday the 13th, which, if you’re so inclined, could potentially make for a spooky night. What I think is even more interesting, however, is its relation to the autumnal equinox and its cultural tradition (I absolutely love learning new things).

According to, the full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox (September 22-23) is the Harvest Moon. This means a Harvest Moon could occur in either September or October, depending on its lunar timing. During these shortening of days the moon rises just moments after the sun sets and gives us a sense of brighter evenings. In times past, farmers appreciated this extra light for harvesting their crops; thus the name Harvest Moon.

Isn’t the harvest season a most glorious time of year? Besides the beauty of autumn, there is just that—the harvest. All around us is the culmination of summer’s sunshine and rain, the miracle of growth, and, of course, the hard work of our hands.

The Harvest is Truly a Blessing

Author Robin Wall Kimmerer spoke of this blessing in her awesome book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. As a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation, she strives for a life of gratitude. Whether it’s the ramps she foraged from a woods in spring or the tomatoes I pick from my garden this fall, everything we consume, everything that allows us to live, is the gift of another life.

Honorable Harvest

Kimmerer wrote of the Honorable Harvest, a canon of ancient principles that govern our taking from the earth. As she lists its guidelines, I’m thinking they could well apply to sustainable living.  

  1. Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.
  2. Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.
  3. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
  4. Never take the first. Never take the last.
  5. Take only what you need.
  6. Take only that which is given.
  7. Never take more than half. Leave some for others.
  8. Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
  9. Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken.
  10. Share.
  11. Give thanks for what you have been given.
  12. Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
  13. Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.

Obviously, the Honorable Harvest isn’t a guideline just for our own taking. It’s also for our giving. In biblical times God instructed his people to leave corners of the field unharvested for the poor to glean, a practice my Latino friends say is common in their home countries still today. Here in the U.S, CSA farms add creative ways of gleaning to their calendars and community farms are dedicated to providing to food pantries. Goodness, simply sharing our garden produce with family and friends is an honorable harvest!

The Honorable Harvest is something we can apply to all areas of our lives. Wouldn’t it be cool if it was as much an autumn celebration as, say, commercial holiday-ism in our stores?

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