we have to farm Eden

‘Today’s global food economy, with its lengthy distribution networks traversing continents and oceans, makes it difficult for eaters to know the places and communities that produce and prepare food. Having so little direct contact with food’s context’s – the fields and waters, livestock crates and pens, the factories and distribution centers, worker communities and restaurants – it is next to impossible for us to act in ways that would promote the good of any place or community’
Norman Wirzba, Food & Faith, A Theology of Eating

It can tie your head in knots to think that each time you eat something there is some specific place somewhere on planet earth that had to grow that food,
(or the things that make up that food)
with very specific fellow human beings doing the farming and either treating creation with respect and love or else treating it badly.
It can tie your head in knots and so why would we even bother thinking about stuff like that? Why not just be thankful you have enough to eat and get on with living life as best you can.

I often do and my default setting is just to consume uncritically, to munch my way through a Mars Bar as I rush from one thing to the next. Yet at other times a sense of unease comes upon me. Because I eat I ‘m involved with agriculture and farming, and so are you. You are responsible for farming.

This can of tinned rice had to be farmed in different nameless places throughout the planet

It’s an incredibly complex journey from farm to my mouth (without even considering the packaging) so I won’t even try or else I might drive myself crazy.
Yet surely few things (if anything) are as fundamental to humanity to eating, which also means that few things are as fundamental as farming to human beings.
This is something which we have completely forgotten in our culture. We know that we have to eat but we don’t seem to realise or have lost sight of the fact that we are dependent on the farmer to grow our food. Right now you are completely dependent on the fact that someone, somewhere is growing your next meal. Farming and agriculture matter, they matter  more than the Man Utd game or ipad 3 or Google or nearly anything else.
And because we eat and depend on the farmer (who depends on grace and things he ultimately can’t control) we also depend on taking care of the earth like we were designed to do in Eden.
If we’re serious about looking after creation we need to support good farmers and those gardeners who use sustainable practices, even if that means much more work on our part in doing research and paying more for our food. We also need to stop supporting those who use destructive practices.

With most of our mass produced food  it’s nearly impossible to know if you have acted in a way that has promoted the good of the communities and places it has come from. So we need to go looking for good farmers who we trust, (or grow as much as we can ourselves) which means more work for us but is the sort of thing we probably should do more off if we’re trying to reflect that idea in Genesis of tending the garden of Eden.



the mystery of the sourdough

‘Whenever people come to the table they demonstrate with the unmistakable evidence of their stomachs that they are not self-subsisting gods. They are finite and mortal creatures dependent on God’s many gifts….Eating reminds us that we participate in a grace-saturated world, a blessed creation worthy of attention of care, and celebration
Norman Wirzba

So a new book arrived and I started to think once again about the importance of food and eating and how we’ve made a poor show of things. I still wonder how we can pray ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ but not look into the mysteries of how God has actually supplied our daily bread. The question that I always wonder is would God supply our daily bread through injustice?
Like if our tinned tomatoes are being harvested by immigrants who are being abused in the south of Italy and we buy the tin in Tesco for 50p and eat it has God supplied our daily bread?

I’ve been using a nice sourdough recipe the past year and it is a constant source of wonder that only three ingredients can bring forth something as tasty as this loaf of bread. It truly is a miracle.
Simple though those ingredients are I am still far removed from their original sources and unaware as to how they got there.

I have been using the Don Carlos salt brand which according to the website is ‘is sourced from the Atlantic Ocean off Sanlucar de Barrameda in the Donana National Park.’

Strong Bread Flour
According to the packaging the flour was produced in the UK. Being skeptical about these sorts of things when it comes to the supermarket is now my default setting.
Does being produced mean they bring the wheat grain in from other countries  then mill it in the UK?
Well OK then I guess I’ll take them at their word.
A bit of Google action suggests that it might have come from the east of England.
But I’m not sure.
Which highlights the problem of trying to find out where our food comes from. We’re largely clueless about the origins of our food.
I’m not sure where the water is piped from, I’ll hazard a guess and say The Silent Valley up in The Mournes.

Even a quick dip into the origins of my simple loaf shows that it is anything but simple. There are men and machine extrating salt in the south-east of Spain, combines tearing down wheat in east Anglia and men monitoring the water supply from Mournes. Not to mention the wind turbines supplying heat to the oven, the oven and on and on it goes.

But at the end of the day it all comes from gift. The sea gives up its salt, the farmers rely on weather and rains (which are beyond their control) and the rain falls in Co. Down.
The supply chains are so complicated and hard to trace. But I think it is good to do if we care about the planet (which is a loving gift from God and should be treated as such)