There is something more authentic about a public harvest well before Thanksgiving, free from the trappings of canned corn, family squabbles and noisy football. Instead, with a real harvest, we wear our everyday boots, trade growing tips and sample recipes with our neighbors.
If we remember our heritage, harvest was our fall tradition, filled with fortitude and generosity. But perhaps we have not strayed too far from our roots.
Transition Laguna Beach is trying to reestablish this sense of community resilience with its annual harvest festival, held Saturday at Bluebird Canyon Farms. Now in its fourth year, the event attracted about 300 people over the course of several hours of music, food and conversation.
Even the musicians got into the act, volunteering their time to support the cause, including Jason Feddy, Doug Miller, Joe Baldino and Chris Amodeo with the Modern Minds.
“Everyone here is a fellow traveler,” said Amodeo, opening his set. “It’s not us playing for you; it’s about us taking a journey together.”
That journey was an interesting one.
To make a local shopping comparison, it’s like the difference between going to South Coast Plaza and The LAB Antimall.
The fundraiser silent auction featured composting kits and organic personal-care products.
The pie contest had “fruit salad pie” by Tamara Hlava and a “King Kong Kurry pie” by Amy Jackson made from “salmon, veggies, creme sauce, love and homegrown shallots.”
Potluck food lined the tables, which were loaded with color, odd shapes and occasional explanatory signs — because there was no other way of knowing what you were eating.
Call them little blobs of adventure. You gingerly took smaller portions with trepidation, only to be surprised at the explosion of flavor.
Exotic fruit, dates, purple salad and hominy.
Compact cubes of space-like protein.
Raspberries the size of strawberries — and I’m guessing no genetically modified organisms on the side.
It was the farm version of Trader Joe’s and Aunt Bee’s.
And as you ate, you chatted with the person next to you and watched the festivities. Everywhere there was movement, handshakes and hugs, smiling and comfort.
You watched as boys played in the back forty, throwing rocks and sliding in the dirt for no real reason. Girls hid around the corner in a clutch, sitting in a circle on the grass, whispering to each other and doing what girls do.
Dogs hovered around the edges, slinking in and out, waiting for table scraps.
It was our neighbors, however, who provided the conviviality and spirit, reinforced by organic wine and homemade beer.
These are the same distant neighbors who used to help us raise the gin pole for the house and ask about our illness.
Back when the definition of family extended beyond lines and fences.
As I sat, it occurred to me that something was fundamentally wrong.
It should not be “Transition” Laguna. There’s nothing transitory about it. It should be more permanent.
It’s more than a club for green thumbs and forward-thinking advocates of sustainability.
It’s really the DNA of our past.
It’s the thing we used to call living off the land, eating what we killed, taking nothing more than we needed.
But it’s hard to do now with scarce land, banned fishing and little patience.
More than anything, it’s hard to do alone — but much easier with friends and neighbors.
DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.