This is a special and holy time for many of the world's people. With the
celebrations of Passover and Easter, ordinary activities give way to
special ceremonies, rituals, and meals to commemorate events that occurred
thousands of year ago. Food plays a major role in these celebrations. A
continuity through the ages can be seen in the extensive symbolism of the
foods served at the Passover Seder and in the Easter feast following the
Lenten fast. Shared meals connect members of families to one another and
to ancient traditions.
These holy days celebrating deliverance and resurrection occur at the same
time the cycle of the seasons brings us to the rebirth of spring, and to
planting time around here. The act of faith implied in placing a small,
seemingly lifeless seed into the ground, rewards us later with growth and
nourishment. This ritual of planting can be accompanied by as much
ceremony and mystical feeling as some religious celebrations. It is
another way of honoring our past, and redefining our connection with and
dependence on something greater than ourselves.
Food is, after air and water, our most important connection with the Earth.
Our bodies run on the solar energy collected by plants and are nourished by
the nutrients they gather from water, air and soil. This sustenance comes
to us either directly or through animals. The traditional grace or blessing
before a meal voices our awe and thankfulness for this wonderful Earth and
its productivity; its nourishing wholeness.
The growing, gathering, catching or hunting of food, and its processing and
preparation provided a significant portion of our ancestors' activities.
Many metaphors of our religious or spiritual lives come from the
relationship our ancestors had with their food supply. Gardening
encourages this relationship and provides important and practical lessons
about the nature of the world. The care, humility, faith and understanding
fostered by gardening are valuable personal resources.
But today, although we can still put together a ceremonial meal, the
connection to the source of food for many of the Earth's people is long and
tangled. We have come to the point where people think they don't need to
know how to grow food, or how to cook it. Our culture says it's just as
good to plunk down your money on the fast food counter, or to open a
prepared, packaged meal, slip it into the microwave and push a button.
Mexican novelist and screenwriter Laura Esquival says, quote "The food one
cooks and eats takes one back to the food's source. You put a package into
the microwave, it takes you back to the factory where it was all made. You
don't go back to Earth, you don't get reminded of your nature." end quote.
There are still connections, of course; everything is in fact connected to
everything else. It's just that with the emerging global food system, the
significant relationships are hidden behind brand names in the supermarket.
The connection to the Earth happens at a great distance, and to an ever
larger extent, is ecologically disastrous and socially unjust. Much of our
food depends on women and children who labor in pesticide -contaminated
fields in third-world countries for about a dollar a day. The great bounty
of grain and vegetables produced in this country comes with the cost of
severe depletion of soil and water resources. The plants and animals which
nourished our ancestors are now being genetically manipulated to achieve
greater control over and higher profits from our food.
It's no wonder that interest in gardening and small farms as well as
organic and local food is increasing as we learn more about the destructive
nature of the industrial food system. This season, in vacant lots in New
Haven, schoolyards in Bridgeport, Hamden and Wilton, and in gardens and
farms all over the region, children, women and men, rich and poor, are
reconnecting directly with the Earth that inspires and sustains us, by
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
(C) 1998, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT
certified organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban
agriculture projects in southern Connecticut and producing "The Politics of
Food" and "Living on the Earth" radio programs). Their collection of essays
Living on the Earth: Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future
is available from Bill Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14
postpaid. These essays first appeared on WSHU, public radio from
Fairfield, CT. New essays are posted weekly at http://www.wshu.org/duesing
and those since November 1995 are available there.
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