I'm not sure when it began but it's been ongoing for many years now. Maybe it was when I read the book 'Fast Food Nation' or when I read Wendell Berry's classic 'The Unsettling of America'. Maybe it was when my wife and I started buying grass fed beef from a local farming family. Maybe it was when it dawned on me that what I put in my mouth directly effects my health. I'm not sure the exact moment that this happen but at some point over the past five years I became passionate about food and agriculture.
I can look back at some key moments that tipped the scales for me – watching movies like 'FRESH' and Food Inc' or 'The World According to Monsanto', attending an open house at a local farm, becoming friends with small scale family farmers, growing our first garden, slaughtering my first chicken, or learning how to milk a cow. These were all stepping stones on our journey that I believe the LORD has led my wife and I down – waking us up to the reality that "Eating is an agricultural act" (which Wendell Berry says so well).
One of the ciritcal elements undergirding our transition from mindless eaters to passionate "foodies" (as some people call it) has been our friendships with local, small scale family farmers. Watching them struggle, seeing the beauty of their vocation, joining with them in the joys of harvest and mourning at the death of a beloved animal. These relationships have aided us in our own pursuit of self-reliant living but have also been a catalyst in forming the way we think about our food practices – what we eat and why.
This long personal journey in exploring issues of food, health and agriculture (and how they all relate) has also coincided with a deeper spiritual journey. Growing up always in church I learned how to define my Christian faith in certain ways. For most of my life that faith walk has been heavily focused on 'orthodoxy' (right belief) but through times of crisis and questioning – my wife and I have begun to explore what it means to embody our belief in Jesus and His Gospel. This embodiment or 'right action' is also known as 'orthopraxy'. Without right action – there is truly no right belief. A Christian's credibility relies upon it. And while I have spent my fair share of asking people if they would go to heaven or hell if they died tonight – I have come to understand that the Gospel of the Kingdom is so much more than personal salvation (although I am by no means diminishing our personal entrance into covenant relationship with the Living GOD). GOD is at work in the world to seed His redemption amidst brokennes and sin. We must be about our Father's business not just proclaiming the Age to Come when He will renew all things in the Resurrection – but we must also demonstrate this coming resurrection through acts of mercy, love and laying down our lives for those around us.
What does this look like? What does this participation in the mission of GOD look like? Well, it looks different for each one of us but one thing is certain – it involves our engagement with our neighbors and our community. It means sluffing off the fatalism that says 'it's all going to burn up anyway – why should I care about the poor, or the environment or the economy, etc… Folks, we're not just passing through this world to go to a better place. We await a new heavens and a new earth – and while we wait, we are ambassodors of the Age to Come – sowing reconciliation wherever we go – reconciliation with GOD, with each other and with GOD's good creation all around us.
Lately we have found our faith and our passion for food and agriculture converging into a very practical expression. As a means to seek the shalom of our community, to seek the renewal of our local economy, the land and our bodies – we are asking ourselves 'how can we help grow the local food movement and sustainable agricultural practices in our regional foodshed'.
We began organizing monthly gatherings to get sustainable farmers and others interested in local food together to network, collaborate and support each other. Our first meeting there was four of us sitting around a table and this past Tuesday we had our fourth meeting with 19 people and a handful of babies and kids running around. It was an amazing time of sharing and conspiring and seeds of concrete action were sown. While we are organizing these gatherings for our own reasons this is not a meeting specifically for Christians – it is open to the whole community with the purpose of establishing a local food forum from which a larger foodshed renewal movement can grow.
Even before we got people together- folks have been gardening and farming with sustainable methods, they are selling their products, but they are barely breaking even and there are not many of them. There are community gardens but not enough to serve everyone. The land groans under the burden of toxic biosolids, chemical pesticides and other industrial abuses. Our bodies bear the burden of our oppressive eating. Now is the time for change. Now is the time for the Church to awaken to our place in the world – to be salt and light – to serve not just in matters deemed spiritual but in the stewardship and caring of all the gifts GOD has given us – our bodies, our land and our communities. As the LORD told exiled Israel:
"Seek the shalom of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare." – Jeremiah 29:7
If you are interested in starting a local food forum/network be watching LandAndTable.com (website coming soon) and Sustainable Traditions in the coming days for some practical advice on how to get started.