Land and life
I recently attended a screening of Green Fire, a new documentary film about Aldo Leopold and a land ethic for our time. A legendary environmentalist, Leopold restored a “worn-out farm” near Baraboo, Wisconsin, in the 1930s and 1940s, and taught at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is known for saying, “There are two things that interest me: the relationship of people to each other and the relationship of people to land.”
In A Sand County Almanac, Leopold wrote:
We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. … That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.
The Biblical narrative tells of God’s enduring passion for the whole of creation. Jesus often referred to land and agriculture to speak of God’s relationship with the world: The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed; the word of God is like seed scattered on soil.
“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”
Jesus lived in an agrarian culture. He spoke with people whose lives were shaped by their relationship with the land.
A keen awareness of life
Easter and spring are just around the corner. In this season of resurrection, how do we imagine ourselves more deeply rooted in the land and aware of our interdependence as people of God in the intricate web of relationships into which we were born as a species?
Increasing numbers of local farmers are practicing methods that are more sustainable with creation. We can learn about sustainable agriculture from Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmers who have committed themselves to care for the land, grow food, and build relationships with people who care about healthy land and food.
Individual or congregational membership in a CSA farm can help us live with a keener awareness of the life and work involved in growing food and getting it to our tables. Joining a CSA farm is a way to connect with local farmers; purchase healthy, fresh vegetables, fruits, and meats; and live with appreciation for the gifts of life.
I am reminded of a quote by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”
This quote speaks to the larger reality that many of us are disconnected from the land, from creation on which we depend, and within which we are woven into interdependent relationships of life and death.
Did Jesus garden?
Another way for us to be more closely connected to the environment and care for the earth is through gardening — in our own yards or on church land. Planning a garden is tangible and possible. Through April, Hennepin County Libraries will host a variety of gardening classes taught by Hennepin County Master Gardeners. See events and classes at: http://www.hclib.org.
Gardens on church land can be created by members who work together — caring for creation teams, Bible study groups, confirmation students, and youth groups, as well as outreach, stewardship, and building committees (just to name a few).
By renewing our relationship with the land through relationships with farmers, in learning about Aldo Leopold, or in gardening, we can deepen our understanding of Jesus’ teaching and live with a keener awareness of the gifts of God. As the spring melt comes, take time to smell the earth. Look at the land around you. Pause and consider where your food has come from.
We belong to the land, to the whole of creation that God made and, upon seeing it, said “It is good.” How do we experience our belonging and proclaim “This is good!”?
Resources for further exploration:
* The Land Stewardship Project has just published the 2012 Minnesota and Western Wisconsin Region CSA Farm Directory. It provides detailed information on more than 80 farms that deliver to locations in the region. Find a copy on line at: www.landstewardshipproject.org/csa.html or pick up a copy at the Land Stewardship Project’s South Minneapolis office, 821 E. 35th St., Suite 200.
* The National Council of Churches resource for Earth Day 2012 is now available for purchase. “A Life of Abundance: Ethics and Energy” provides a Christian perspective on energy choices and God’s abundant gifts of energy. See: http://nccecojustice.org/resources/index.php#earthday.sundayresources.
Eva Jensen is an ELCA pastor who lives and works in the Twin Cities.
Tags: A Sand County Almanac, abundance, agrarian culture, agriculture, Aldo Leopold, caring for creation, Community Supported Agriculture, CSA, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Earth Day 2012, Easter, food abundance, garden, Green Fire, Hennepin County Libraries, Hennepin County Master Gardeners, land ethic, Land Stewardship Project, local farmers, LSP, National Council of Churches, NCC, Resurrection, University of Wisconsin-Madison