What might it look like for our communities to engage with creation as a partner and not a resource? Michael Pollan gave a talk in 2007 in which he challenged his audience to imagine the world from the perspective of other species. ... Pollan tells the story of a farm in Virginia where industrial agriculture has been rejected in favour of an approach where the crops form a complex and sustainable ecosystem or permaculture. The complex relationships between the species result in organic crop yields which are multiples of the yields produced by intensively managed factory farms. Might Christians be at the leading edge of such exciting projects? What radical impact might this have on our economics?
I'm not sure if the article's author is aware that Christians ARE at the leading edge of such exciting projects. At least as far as that farm in Virginia is concerned, the Salatins are a Christian family. I'm not saying that I think we should all haul ourselves out of the cities and start living this way. By no means! A famer's life is not for everyone. And I don't think that the Salatins have "the perfect farming method," though I do find their commitment to creating a symbiotic relationship between the farmers and the animals and crops compelling. Plus, they have a consistently strong work ethic, working long hours, yet still find time to read great books. (If only I could be so productive!)
I do believe that supporting these smaller family farms is a good idea, even if our pocketbooks can only do so in small doses. Christians should be leading the way, taking on these projects when possible, but at the very least teaching our children to be good stewards and caretakers of the earth. Even if the farms aren't overtly Christian, our support of such projects might help encourage others to do the same.
During the summer, I plan to support a CSA (community-supported agriculture)/farmer's market in my neighborhood that I discovered through Local Harvest. A few years ago, I bought extra shares from those farmers and have been on the mailing list ever since. This summer I hope to visit the market each week with the boys since our usual Wednesday activity is on hiatus. I think it will be educational for the boys and a start at seeing where our food comes from. Also, since we have such great outdoor space now, I hope to plant a small garden or, at the very least, some tomatoes. (Give me a few weeks and maybe I'll do something about that.) If nothing else, I will pause more often in the produce aisle and consider how and where I spend my grocery budget and what that means for the kingdom.
(I do want to add that I understand that choices of whether or how to implement these ideas are, like education, specific for each family. Maybe you don't buy this and just want to get all your produce from Publix? Okay, that's cool, too.)
Still, I've learned over the last few years the truth that what we do with this place we live matters. The earth is the Lord's and everything in it. We have been called to be good stewards, whether in a city windowbox or a rural garden plot, and not to damage or abuse what we have been given. We're currently renting our house and I've noticed how I desire to improve it rather than let it remain as-is. (The analogy breaks down, of course, because if you own something you usually want to take care of it more since you have to fix it yourself. Perhaps it's only someone like me who would lament previous neglectful tenants and long to make it better.) It's the same with the earth, though -- our world belongs to the Lord so we should trod carefully and leave it better than when we arrived, not treat it like a garbage dump.
When we tend a garden, we are proclaiming that our role as caretakers matters. When we do research about local farmers and buy produce from a farmer who shares our stewardship values, we are supporting others who take care of the earth. When we nourish new plants with decaying compost in our backyard, it is a reminder that Christ overcame death and points us toward the day He will come again to create a new heavens and a new earth. May our gardens be redeemed into something glorious. Until then, may He find us faithful.