by Lora Steiner, managing editor
Every year, members of Blooming Glen Mennonite Church throw a party. It’s got all the necessary elements of a good celebration: games, food, music, and plenty of neighbors joining in. And then there’s one part you wouldn’t expect: a Massey Ferguson combine harvester rolling through nearby fields, harvesting crops of corn and soybeans.
Blooming Glen first began planting its fields in 2002. The church owns 76 acres and about a third of that—25 acres—has been planted annually ever since. The grain is sold on the open market, and proceeds go towards a different project each year. Usually, it’s towards an agricultural project, like those run by Mennonite Central Committee.
Every year, church members harvest the crops around the end of October. And every year—the last Saturday in October—the congregation holds its annual harvest festival, an event open to anyone who wants to come.
One year profits from the harvest went to a non-denominational ministry in Minnesota supporting farmers in that state; another year, they took the grain to farmers in the Belleville, Pennsylvania area who were experiencing heavy drought. Another year, a portion of the proceeds went to Keystone Opportunity Center, a Souderton, Pennsylvania-based organization that aids homeless people. Two years ago when grain prices rose, they sent $20,000 to a Mennonite Disaster Service project in Ohio. This year, the going price has dropped so it won’t be as much, though it’s still nothing to sneeze at—as long as you don’t get too close to the semi in the parking lot where the combine is unloading the grain.
At the festival, there are activities and games—no age limit is posted—that range from painting pumpkins, to throwing corn cobs through the painted mouth of a pig, to hayrides. One game has prizes—small wooden animals made with a jigsaw and painted. Bob Moyer, a member of the congregation, made 75 of them last year; this year, it went up to 100.
Members of the church say the event, like the fields, grows and changes a bit every year. Many people from Blooming Glen donate homemade chili and cookies, cider and apples. The young adult Sunday school class serves as treasurers. John Hockman and Paul Hockman, brothers who own Penn View Farm, take care of the planting, and father-and-son team John Kulp and Ryan Kulp of J & R Farms helped with the harvesting this year. The junior MYF group supervised the popcorn machine, while the senior MYF led games.
Robin Long, a member of Blooming Glen and also the congregation’s business manager, says one of her favorite things about the event is that it’s multi-generational and also “multi-initiative.”
“Not only are there people here from all ages,” she says, “There are people helping from all ages.”
Alexa Kennel, 13, stopped on her way to snag another cookie, says that when she was younger, she liked the games a lot. Now, her favorite part is seeing everyone in the church and catching up with them.
Long says the harvest festival is important for many reasons: Harvesting on the same day as the festival provides a visible reminder of where food comes from and the importance of farmland. It also brings together the local community.
“It’s the simple pleasures of food and play,” says Long. “And the fellowship. You can’t beat the fellowship.”