Andy got me thinking about green beans for this morning. All morning round Belfast in fact. I was haunted by the bean.
“Buying local – there’s another complex one. If we stop buying food from the developing world, we help the planet in terms of global warming and other issues around that. And possibly cause tens or hundreds of millions of people to starve….”
I have thought about this before because to say that we shouldn’t buy green beans from poor farmers in Africa or other countries seems like a selfish thing to do.
We should buy their green beans and help them earn their way out of grinding poverty in a fair and dignified way.
Sure its better for the environment to fly in green beans from Kenya (where people have very low carbon footprints) than to buy them locally from a farmer who drives round his farm in a big diesel tractor, throwing fertiliser and pesticides round the place.
This all seem very logical and the Christian thing to do (almost Fairtrade) and I had almost swayed to thinking that way myself but…… then I’ve swayed back round again to thinking that it is best not to…until somebody here maybe shouts and me and I change my mind and agree with them.
I think the main problem I can see is that we’re using Kenyan water and Kenyan soil to grow crops that we don’t really need so that some supermarkets can make more money.
Maybe that is a bit simplistic but who decided that it would be a good idea to fly green beans into the UK & Ireland in winter?
Did the supermarkets decide to start buying green beans because it wanted to help Kenyans out of poverty or because they could grow green beans for next to nothing then make some profit?
I watched this clip on Youtube with the man from the BBC who does the news.
In it he said that in a country where less than 20% of the land is suitable for growing food and in the middle of a food crisis (partly caused by drought) affecting millions of people and which the Kenya government has declared a national disaster Kenya is exporting green beans over to the UK.
Then he goes to farm which employs 550 people which is watered by expensive irrigation systems watering our vegetables, run by a British farmer and supplying our major supermarkets.
Then to compound matters, the farmer explains how often the green beans which he does grow have to be rejected by the supermarket because they are not straight enough or perhaps a bit of soil splashes up from the rain and make it dirty and the public doesn’t want to eat beans that are not straight or dirty.
Then the rejected crops are fed to cattle
The nice man from the BBC then asks the farmer why don’t they use the land for growing food for the millions of people who are starving ?
And the British farmer says because they have to grow the economy and they are creating jobs. What else are they to do in Kenya
Which is maybe a wee bit like what the English said during the potato famine when they kept on exporting food from Ireland to England and the continent.
I didn’t realise that until the other day.
While the Potato Famine was in full swing killing 1,000,000 people and causing another 1,000,000 to leave Ireland landlords and those in power where busy exporting food. It was probably good for the economy in some sense and provided some jobs but does that make it right or good?
And thats before even start thinking about things like carbon footprints and packaging,seasonal food vs local food.
So why not
Take the church lawn (if you have a church lawn),
dig it up and make some raised vegetable beds and start growing lots of French beans, peas and brocolli instead.
Take the produce and give it out for free after church for people to use for their Sunday lunch.
Take the money you would have given Tesco/Sainsbury/Asda for the Kenya green beans and give it to Christian Aid or some other charity that deals with dropping global debt or campaigning against unfair trade laws, enjoy organic food with a low carbon footprint which tastes fresh and has been grown on your church property.
If there are green beans left over put them in a freezer bag and refrigerate until you feel like having green beans again.
Have a really big Harvest Service with food you’ve grown on the old lawn, then turn it into soup for a community soup lunch (for free).
Or keep your church lawn grass but get rid of the lawnmower and keep a few sheep/chickens on it. But thats for another day…
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I just can’t get the idea out of my head that it would be a God glorifying thing for a church to own or support an organic farm and run it well for the local community. I’ve tried explaining why I thought this would be a good idea to a couple of people, but my tongue gets tied and my thoughts go cloudy.
There are lots of thoughts that have brought me to this conclusion but at the heart of it is the fact that Christians believe that the land belongs to God (not man) and because of that we should use it well. Its His handiwork.
We were made in his image, and part of that image is to be gardeners and stewards of the earth, to make sure that this world that God proclaimed good should be used wisely.
Too often Christian have thought that the most important thing that we should be up to on earthn they pass away they go to be with Jesus or something like that. Heaven in my head has traditionally been a place that it bright, brighter than bright and hear dodgey praise music such as you might hear in a Faith Mission bookshop. Do I really want to go to a place called Heaven if all we do is play Robin Mark songs all day long for eternity?
Yet I’ve been having my head blown away by Tom Wright’s book ‘Surprised by Hope’, because it is making sense of why the first Christians stood before lions and spread what they had heard about Jesus with conviction, despite the oppostion.
It makes sense of why we should work in the now to heal and redeem the planet, why Christians should care about stuff like organic farming or architecture, why we should plant trees and feed the hungry.
If a church owned a farm/community garden it would be like saying we are the proper stewards of the earth, we are redeemed people who are working for the Kingdom of Heaven. We want to heal that which has been used unwisely and to make it healthy again, to make it a beautiful space that hints at that which is to come.
We’re to be about the earthing of heaven.
Perhaps an organic farm would mean that
a) we could treat the creation carefully, to use techniques that might heal the soil rather than strip it, to grow healthy and tasty food, to witness to the world with the goodness of our harvest.
b) we would be able to source our ‘daily bread’ for our local community without added oil, oil which is choking God’s good creation. That can only be a good thing. Oil is a limited resource that we have become too reliant on.
As I watch the floods in Pakistan I keep wondering if somehow I’ve been implicated in what has happened.
Are our oil addicted Western lifestyles making weather patterns more unpredictable and severe around the world?
c) we could connect the community back to the land, witness that we live by God’s grace and bountiful creation,that we are actually serious about the physical redemption of the planet. You could have school kids up in the morning to learn about where their food comes from.
d) we could create jobs for the underemployed. Organic farming is more labour intensive and that is a good thing. Of course some farm jobs are boring and tedious but that doesn’t mean they are insignificant. We could give fair wages for the workers, perhaps to the long term unemployed or those who are not given a fair chance in life.
e) you could have a retreat centre on the site for artists, you help out round the farm in the morning to earn your keep and then in the afternoon you go and paint, write your poetry, record your music, have a beer.
that and other stuff as well…
If this world is really good and not going to be destroyed by God but redeemed and recreated,
if the body is good and matter matters,
if the Kingdom of Heaven actually started on this earth,
in actual history because of the actual physical resurrection of Jesus and we’re living out that story right now in our communities,
if we’re about the earthing of heaven
what does that actually mean in concrete real terms?
I’ve been wrestling with this issue for the last few years, ever since my Christian faith became constipated and all I could muster for weeks on end was the Lord’s Prayer. What does it mean when we pray
‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’?
another aspect of this is what does it mean to be truly human?
you are the fount of all knowledge. None is wiser than you. In your storehouses lies wisdom and truth.
You are good great Google. I come to you as one who does not have the answers.
Why is oh great Google is my life such a mess?
Could you point me to a few useful articles that might help me redeem my sorry life?
why am I invisible?why does nobody care?
answer me dear Heavenly Google.
what if we planted vegetables,herbs, flowers and had fruit trees on our church land instead of just lawns?
For one thing lawns seem to me to be about maintaining the status quo, keeping the grass nice and neat whereas vegetables and fruit are about producing a crop.
You could give extra produce away to the needy, grow sunflowers for the sick and have communion over a soup lunch grown on the former church lawn.