The gift of food, the love of God
Biblical stories witness to God’s passionate presence in all creation: in gardens and wilderness; in floods and famine; with creatures of the sea and birds of the air; in vineyards, orchards, and urban habitats. God’s commitment is to tend and care for all that God has made so that all life might flourish abundantly.
What does it mean to live in a world that is loved by God? How do you see God in the world? Does God’s love for the world have implications for the way you choose to live in and with creation?
Over the past two years in this “A Simple Feast” column, we have looked through different lenses into food, farming, ecology, and justice. There are no simple answers or easy solutions to the dilemmas we face today. The question is, “How are we participating in God’s love for creation?”
In February I attended the 22nd Annual Agriculture Conference of the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota, an organization that brings together people who work in diverse ways to strengthen sustainable agriculture and vital communities throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Does God’s love for the world have implications for the way you choose to live in and with creation?
Michael Abelman, a farmer, writer, and photographer, was a keynote speaker. From 1981 to 2001, Abelman farmed on one of the oldest and most diverse organic farms in southern California, Fairview Gardens. In 1997, under the pressures of urban development, he founded the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens, a nonprofit land trust that preserves the land as a small scale urban and organic farm that provides its neighbors with food and place-based agricultural, ecological, and cultural education.
Abelman is also a co-founder of Sole Food in Vancouver, British Columbia, an organization that transforms vacant urban land into street farms that grow artisan quality fruits and vegetables and empowers individuals with limited resources by providing jobs, agricultural training, and inclusion in a supportive community of farmers and food lovers. He currently farms at Foxglove Farm on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, land that he described as “surrounded by forests where farming takes place in an interrelationship of forests and agriculture and a network of life-giving relationships.”
Food as an act of faith
Problems associated with agriculture and our food system are often cited as the “food crisis,” “farm crisis,” “hunger,” an “ecological crisis,” or a “health crisis.” Abelman frames the problem as a “crisis of participation.” Following is an excerpt from the book he is currently writing:
All farming is an act of faith, an expression of hope and possibility. I cannot imagine that there are any farmers out there who, no matter how many times they have seen the miracle of a seed germinate, or a lamb being born, or a tree flower and set fruit, are not in awe of a force far greater than themselves. This is what keeps us going even when the work is hard and the return not commensurate. It is this force we rely on, it’s what we set the table for.
We prepare ground for planting, providing everything we can to insure that the conditions are right. We place tiny seeds, and plants, and trees in that ground, in rows, and lines, and blocks, on raised beds, in trenches, in holes, we wait and watch and cover and protect, always knowing that in the end we are not in control.
The most reliable part of our work is the mystery, the collaboration with the unseen, the hyper-focused intention followed by the willingness to let go.
Living a life of faith is complex, and caring for creation is hard. It requires attention and intention – a discipline of care. Relationships and participation are necessary. The good news is that increasing numbers of diverse peoples are working together to learn, act and advocate for a food and agriculture system that is accessible, life-giving and sustainable for the long term. The good news is that God meets us in this caring and creative commitment. We can trust in the reliability of God.
This is my last column of “A Simple Feast” as I move on to other writing and projects. Metro Lutheran will continue to be a resource that draws on the rich resources, organizations, and innovators who are committed to sustainable agriculture and food justice in the Greater Twin Cities Area. I am grateful for the journey of the past two years and look forward to the places we will meet in the future.
Eva Jensen is an ELCA pastor who lives and works in the Twin Cities.