Life Through the Lens of Faith
Faith & the Environment
Home | Postings Inspired by the Holy Spirit | Archives | Good News | Essays | Faith & the Environment | Urban Farming Vision | Bible Study Tips | My Years in Purgatory | About Me

"...the earth He has given to the children of men"
 
Psalms 115:16
 
 
"You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands..."
 
Psalms 8:6
 
 
"Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds; for riches are not forever..."
 
Proverbs 27:23-24
 
 
"There is desirable treasure, and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it."
 
Proverbs 21:20
 
 
God's Teaching on sustainability in the Bible:
 

“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days."

 

Deuteronomy 22:6-7
 
 

I Thank the Lord for the recent trend of people of faith embracing more closely their duty to be stewards of the planet through more environmental awareness and action.  Here is the Urban Farming Vision that I have been pursuing with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength for the past year:

 

Urban Farming Project Summary:

 

Over a year ago, the Washington Post ran a series on childhood obesity that was very revealing.  Later, there was a story about people turning to urban and community farming because of the increasing cost of food.  At first blush, it may not be apparent but these issues are related.

 

It is well known that many low income and minority communities, in particular, are plagued with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. All of the above health problems can be tackled through nutrition.

 

In this regard, I have been trying to promote an idea that involves nutrition, health, positive self-image, education and urban farming. Many people were already working on this type of project here and elsewhere; My vision was, well, just bigger.  To me, clearly our current policymakers were not thinking radically enough in addressing some of the problems I mentioned.

 

The news stories on this subject were proliferating. Especially enlightening were ones that highlighted urban farming in New York and Havana, Cuba .  The Holy Spirit was hitting me over the head with this big idea that had been brewing in my soul for years but was just beginning to take form.

 

The idea is this: school kids can spearhead a local and/or national campaign organized to introduce urban farming on a massive scale.

 

On my trip home from Italy last year the vision crystallized even more.  I had seen the humility of St. Francis of Assisi.  I had seen, first hand, the places where the Apostles Peter and Paul had sacrificed all of their being (and their lives) in order to lead mankind into thriving communities built upon the simple concept of loving one another.  Moreover, I had seen the incredibly rich culture of growing food in almost every nook and cranny of Italy.

 

On the plane back, I was reading a book that I had bought about growing vegetables.  To my complete surprise, the lady sitting next to me said, “Do you grow your own vegetables?”  It turns out that her father was a serious gardener; she grew some of her own vegetables, and had just completed a master gardening class.  This was a clear sign to me that that was what my next step should be.  In that class, I learned everything, and made all of the connections, I needed to move forward with a sense of confidence and urgency.

 

Here in Washington, DC the long term vision is to start by making large school gardens and urban farms a part of city policy and the school curriculum. Small community hobby farms are good, but we need to think bigger; especially, with the cost of food and the environmental impact of transporting it. And, it cannot be overlooked that meat production emits large amounts of greenhouse gases, pollutes our water, and eating too much of it shortens our lives.

 

But there are other advantages that make this concept more than compelling: children would be taught hard work, team work, delayed gratification, nutrition and nurturing. It would also promote exercise, and get them out from in front of the TV and off of the streets. There are other possible social and community benefits, as well, that I discuss below.

 

A surprisingly large amount of food can be grown on a vacant lot. In Washington, DC there is an incredible amount of vacant land (some targeted for development for decades, much of it federal) that can be eventually tapped into. But, in order to get this off the ground we must first think smaller.  Start by just volunteering at an existing urban gardening program.

 

The early stages include pilot programs based on the Edible Schoolyard project . More small gardens should be built at selected schools, ideally at middle schools. The children would be taught to plant, harvest and prepare vegetables and fruits. When the legal and political hurdles are removed to implement the larger vision those kids who developed an interest through the pilot program would "graduate" to spearheading the full high school urban farming project.

 

Land would be set aside in each ward of the city, with specific schools being responsible for specific locations. They would get class credit and/or be paid a small sum for the work. In the end this program could pay for itself, although the equipment, material and expertise required would necessitate an upfront investment.

 

The kids could keep some of the harvest to take home. Additional food could be given to soup kitchens, food banks and other needy families. This is “service learning.”  There is currently a new movement afoot where farmers donate land and volunteers do the work then donate the food to the poor.  Similarly, gleaners clear farmers’ fields of unsalable produce and give it away.  This could also be a facet of the program. Some of the vegetables and fruit could also be marketed to farmer's markets, and community supported agriculture programs (CSA’s) could be created. This is where the profit potential is.

 

The University of the District of Columbia already has over a hundred acres just outside of town. Most of it lies fallow. They have received funding as part of a recently enacted agricultural bill and say they are planning a college of urban agriculture--wouldn't it be nice if they began implementing some of these concepts. 

http://www.carlrollinsblog.com/imagelib/sitebuilder/layout/spacer.gif

 

Below I provide links to various articles as a sampling of what some people are doing to limit their environmental footprint.

 

I pray that some will read and let the Holy Spirit guide them to change...

Foundational Values
 
This Washington Post article from 2005 heralded a new trend: "The Greening of Evangelicals."
 

The "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign was a significant watershed

Dipping Your Toe in the Water

 

Not using plastic bags when grocery shopping has become a trend sweeping communities around the globe: "Plastic Bags, Headed for a Meltdown."

Hard Core

 

An article from the Washington Post magazine, "Another Way," describes a group of idealists who have created a low-energy community in North Carolina.  Although this group is probably diametrically opposed to much of what we stand for they beg the question, why aren't Christians trying this?

 

Well, it turns out that some already are.  A small "tribe" combines organic farming and faith in "Neighborliness Grows on Them."

Over the Top

 

This New York family has gone where no (modern urban) man has gone before: "The Year Without Toilet Paper."  Any takers?

 
 
Closely related to these environmental concerns is the concept of Christians leading a healthy lifestyle and eating well.  Remember, "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit" (1Corinthians 6:19). 
 
 
I recommend a recent article in the New York Times that discussed the impact of American-style fastfood in Mediterranean communities; "Mediterranean Diet Declines, and Weights Rise." 
 
For those interested in finding out more about these topics and Community Supported Agriculture  ("CSA's") I have provided some links and good background articles below:

  • If you are interested in participating in a community agriculture support (CSA) program and purchasing a share of vegetables, or locating farmers markets in your area the Local Harvest website is a good place to start.

  • NEW CONCEPT!!  A recent Washington Post story, "Filling a Growing Need," features a farmer who has set aside farmland for volunteers to cultivate crops for food coops and soup kitchens that serve the needy.

  • There is also a new movement afoot to emphasize teaching children some of these principles.  Read a Washington Post article on the "edible schoolyard" project.

  • Worried that kids won't eat "good" food?  Read an AP story on a University of Minnesota study that concluded that children will eat healthy school food.

  • NEW TREND!!!: It turns out that "urban farming" is successfully being implemented in many places across the country on larger scales (who knew?).  The recent New York Times article, "City Farmers' Crops Go From Vacant Lot to Market," combined with other experiences and articles led to the birth of a new idea in my spirit.  School children can start farming on large tracts of unused urban land.  They can start their own CSA programs and give fresh vegetables to soup kitchens and the poor.  Such a program will instill hard work, team work, nurturing, and business acumen.  In addition, there potentially could be a host of other societal, educational and character benefits (see also; "Cuba's Urban Farming Program a Stunning Success").

This will take a lot of effort to get this off of the ground.  City governments and school systems must be brought on-board to approve the program and the land use.  It is probably best to begin with a pilot program similar to the Edible Schoolyard Project.

For general principles on the buy organic/local, "slow food" trend  you might want to consider reading the seminal book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" and Slow Food USA.

 
Of course, there are many issues related to the environment.  Perhaps the most important is how pollution affects climate change/global warming.  Another is the problem of trash.  See the links below for more information:
 
 
  • Skeptical about global warming?  Do some research yourself.  Read the summary of the "Climate Change 2007" report issued by the group that shared last year's Nobel Peace Prize (this a 5.66 MB Acrobat file; it takes a while to load).  Fore more info, see the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change website.

Sphere: Related Content

LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOU LOVE  YOURSELF REQUIRES TOTAL LOVE, TOTAL FORGIVENESS, TOTAL BROTHERHOOD AND SUBVERTING THE DOMINANT PARADIGM