Ask Eartha: Harvest time in the High Country |

Ask Eartha: Harvest time in the High Country

Dear Eartha,

I have a reservation for this week to attend HC3’s Harvest Dinner. I know proceeds go towards local conservation efforts but would like to know a little bit more about the history behind Harvest Dinners. — Laura from Frisco

Seasonal changes are the environmental indicators that prompt nature. Shorter days trigger the aspen leaves to lose their green chlorophyll pigment revealing the red tones of the anthocyanin pigment and xanthophyll’s brilliant yellows. Colder nights remind the black bears to bulk up for their winter hibernation. Human beings are no different.

Hunters stalk up on game meat and farmers harvest their crops as the growing season comes to an end. Once again it is also that time of year for High Country Conservation Center’s Harvest Dinner. While last night was the fundraiser’s sixth year, for centuries feasts have been held to celebrate bountiful crop yields and a relief from days laboring in the fields or perhaps community-raised garden beds.

‘Harvest’ is derived from the Old English word ‘hoerfest,’ meaning autumn. Traditionally the harvest festivals were held on the Sunday nearest the full moon of the autumn equinox. The harvest moon, which was also a supermoon, happened on Sept. 8 and 9. The equinox will occur on Tuesday, Sept. 22, officially marking that the days are getting shorter in the Northern Hemisphere.

The ancient pagan holiday of Samhain, pronounced sah-wen, was celebrated on the evening of Oct. 31. Pagans felt that this was the time of the year when the veil between the living and spirit worlds was thinned. Modern culture now celebrates Halloween on this day. While there were costumes, the original feasts were season produce, not candy. Participants would light large bonfires and eat a large dinner to show appreciation for the harvest, as well as prepare for the sacrifices of winter.

Introduced by the early settlers of North America, the most famous harvest meal was Thanksgiving Dinner shared between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in 1621. Massive parade floats and NFL games were absent from the first Thanksgiving. There was, however, turkey, seafood, potatoes, onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots and perhaps peas. Local fruits and berries were collected. They also ground up maize to create cornmeal. Since the early colony lacked butter and wheat flour necessary for making pie crust, attendees would have enjoyed pumpkin custard instead.

The High Country Conservation Center’s Harvest Dinner was assembled with generous donations of local and seasonal food items and produce. This year Palisade-grown squash and apples were donated by Uncle John’s Farm Stands, located in Frisco and Silverthorne. Clark Family Orchards donated peaches. The beef came from Aspen Ridge and Eagle Smoked Salmon provided fresh fish. Breckenridge Market and Liquor contributed eggs, flour and sugar. There was also a donation of eggs made by a local backyard homesteader. City Market gave a gift certificate for any additional ingredients. For the past few years Hood Landscaping has donated flowers from seasonal garden cutbacks to decorate the centerpieces.

Bun In The Oven Bakery made gluten-free cheesecakes using goat cheese from Jumping Goat Cheese. De La Chiva Dairy of Buena Vista also contributed goat cheese to be used in the meals. Vinny Monarca, chef and owner of Vinny’s Euro American Restaurant in Frisco, prepared a menu and the meals using all of the donations collected by the High Country Conservation Center. Each year the restaurant has hosted HC3’s Harvest Dinner. Not only do all of the proceeds go toward community waste reduction, local food and energy programs, but Vinny’s staff even donates their hourly wages.

It is an event put together by High Country Conservation Center and the community for the greater green good of the community. If you missed last night’s Harvest Dinner there is always next year. This is also a wonderful opportunity to host your own. Organize a potluck with friends, family, co-workers and your neighbors. Encouraging each guest to only contribute local and seasonal items.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at

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