The Source of Your Thanksgiving Meal

Pumpkin PieWhere does your Thanksgiving meal come from?  No, not the grocery store (even if this is “technically correct”)!  Minnesota farmers, as well as producers across the country, are raising the animals and crops that provide millions of Americans with the staples on their Thanksgiving table.  Use this activity to discover where traditional Thanksgiving meal components are raised in the U.S. and Minnesota’s important contributions. Whether you’re doing the cooking or the eating this Thanksgiving, perhaps knowing where your meal came from may help you be all the more thankful.

The Source of Your Thanksgiving Meal


  • Computer with internet access
  • Paper and writing utensils
  • Optional ingredients for Pumpkin Pie in a Bag:
    2 cups cold milk
    2 packages of instant vanilla pudding
    1, 15 oz. can solid pack pumpkin
    1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
    Graham cracker
    Whipped cream topping
    1 gallon sized freezer bag
    Can opener
    Measuring cups and spoons


  1. Brainstorm the foods that are traditionally associated with Thanksgiving.  Discuss any family recipes, traditions, etc. and the foods that might be involved.  Have a second brainstorm session to think and discuss where in the world and US these foods are grown and raised.
  2. Imagine that your menu for a Thanksgiving meal includes turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie.  Write these items down on a sheet of paper and title the list Thanksgiving Meal Menu.
  3. Use the chart at and the maps at to determine the areas of the United States that lead our country in producing each of the menu items.  List the top one or two producing states for each item you recorded on your Thanksgiving Meal Menu.  Discuss how the entire United States is involved in this meal.  What role does Minnesota agriculture play?
    Discussion Starters:

    1. Why is Minnesota the top producer of turkeys?  Corn and soybeans are the major components of a turkey’s diet.  These crops are grown in large quantities in Minnesota.  The food is nearby so Minnesota is a very convenient location to grow turkeys.
    2. Why is Wisconsin one of the leading states in cranberry and green bean production?  Cranberries are grown in wetlands and require a cold winter for a period when they don’t grow or “rest” – this time period is called dormancy.  Wisconsin has this cold time period for dormancy and also a lot of wetlands and water resources necessary for cranberry production.   Green beans also like the soil components in Wisconsin and there are many bean processing facilities that cause farmers to grow green beans in this state.
    3. Why is North Carolina one of the leading states in growing sweet potatoes? Sweet potatoes need a long growing season to mature.  The warm temperatures and hot summer, along with water resources, help sweet potatoes grow in North Carolina and a few other states in the southern US.
    4. Why are pumpkins grown in almost every US state?  Pumpkins are a very resilient fruit that can survive in many different growing climates.  There are also many, many different varieties of pumpkins that have been developed to be grown in different growing seasons, temperatures, soils, etc.  Pumpkins are grown for food, but also for decoration in many parts of the country.
  4. An optional activity to end this lesson/discussion is to create pumpkin pie in a bag.  This activity can provide an opportunity to apply math and measuring skills, differentiate between physical and chemical change, and discuss the nutritional value of pumpkin.
    1. Pour 2 cups cold milk and 2 packages instant pudding into a zip lock freezer bag.  Close the bag and squeeze the bag until it is well blended
    2. Add 15 oz. can of pumpkin and 1 tsp. pumpkin spice to the bag.  Close the bag and squeeze again until well blended.
    3. Place a graham cracker on a plate or napkin.
    4. Cut off the corner of your freezer bag.  Carefully squeeze the pumpkin pie filling onto the cracker.  Add whipped cream topping if desired.
      Makes about 20-25 servings.

For further information about the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom program visit or contact Al Withers, Program Director at or Sue Knott, Education Specialist at

This entry was posted in Fun Activities, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, MN Ag in the Classroom, Recipe Database. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Source of Your Thanksgiving Meal

  1. Arlene says:

    Is there any reason the pumpkin mixture should not be put into a graham cracker pie crust and chilled?

    • Minnesota Farmers Feed US says:

      Hi Arlene,

      Yes, you could definitely put the mixture over a graham cracker crust, chill, and serve as a pie. This activity was originally developed to be easy for kids to make and eat in a classroom setting, so that’s why we have the single graham cracker serving option. Thanks for reading!

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