As we get closer to the holiday season, a couple things start to happen to signal the arrival of Thanksgiving and Christmas. First, radio stations crank up the Christmas tunes as early as possible, even on the day after Halloween. There is nothing so jarring as hearing “Thriller” segue into “Jingle Bells,” but that’s where we are.

The second thing is that people start to count their blessings. I’ve had a few friends posting daily messages on Facebook offering thanks for their friends, family and other good things. Especially after the tumultuous year that we’ve all been through, it’s incredibly important to remember all the good things that we have. So, I’ll add a few reasons why I’m giving thanks this year.

I’m thankful to be writing about an industry that’s vibrant, growing and innovating. I’ve experienced the other end of this spectrum. I was writing about the woodworking industry in the United States about the time that many of the country’s biggest furniture companies shipped all their production overseas. It was brutal. But the food industry in general is booming, and the meat industry in particular is going through quite an evolution. The trends to clean labels, antibiotic-free meats and locally grown or made food are creating opportunities for companies in the Independent Processor community, and it’s a great opportunity to write about the companies that are capitalizing on them.

I’m thankful that there is a near-inexhaustible supply of great stories to tell in the industry. I enjoy visiting with so many diverse processors. Just this year alone, I’ve learned about rabbit processing and pre-cooked bacon processing. I’ve seen award-winning sausages and traditional Lebanon bologna produced. I’ve talked to military veterans who have found a place in the meat industry and third- and fourth-generation processors. The travel has its ups and downs, but when I come away from a trip with more insight than I had before I left, it was well worth the time.

Lastly, I’m thankful for the good people in the industry, and there are many of them. I’ve been writing about the meat industry for 13 years now, and the overwhelmingly majority of people I’ve met or spoken with are happy to talk to me about their business or the industry in general. There is a steep learning curve that comes with covering an entire industry, and I feel pretty fortunate to have found people to help with my education.

Most business owners are already making plans for 2018, as you’d expect. While in the midst of your planning, don’t forget to think a little about the high points of your past year and the people and events that helped you along the way. Giving thanks now will put you in the right frame of mind to reach even higher next year.