Just Food? Food and Farming for a Sustainable Future, edited by Barbara Butler, Spring 2018. Christians Aware, ISBN 978 0 9955 5428 6 0, 229 pages. RRP £12 + £4 p&p from Christians Aware, 2 Saxby St, Leicester, LE2 0ND. www.christiansaware.co.uk
Food and farming, like those they serve, never walk alone. The response to the title’s general question is inherent and satisfying: “Food and farming for a sustainable future”. Their reverse, non-sustainable food and farming, threaten life on earth and even contribute to a reign of death.
This book points towards food security and justice. As Editor Barbara Butler writes, “Despair is not helpful”. She suggests we can do a lot (as indeed we can and often do). Food and nutrition security are vital for the future of the world.
A principal contribution we make is inclusion of God in farming and food production. Our faith testifies, imaginatively, that farming began in a garden, under God, that our central act of worship is a meal, and that God in the human Jesus became one of us and died for us to redeem us. This is our God whom we worship and follow.
We are within God’s soil community, entrusted to us for sustainable production and use. We encourage soil love. We are a loving, created community. All sustainable farming, traditional or modern, recognises that we are a created community. We serve God by serving the soil, including its sustainable use for our food, and even with some improvements in human technology. We can contribute compost using food waste (or remnants) as a principal example of soil love under God. Even disused food plants or food can serve as compost. I even include here what the late organic gardener Lawrence Hills called Chairman Mao’s cocktail – the use of human urine can nourish the growing soil community.
All of us, including our children, can support and learn from the soil wisdom of the Soil Association, through its contemporary members, and from some wise ancestors such as John Muir, F W Schumacher, John Seymour and Eve Balfour. Soil health is damaged through human generated air, soil and water pollution and compaction. With the Soil Association and similar groups including the Sierra Club, Green Christian and others, we can maintain and improve soil fertility and structure through increasing food resilience, careful cultivation and use of green manures, and well rotted compost, including animal manures.
Grasslands in general, especially mixed with clover and livestock, nourish soil. Green manures with different root systems are especially useful. The Agroforestry Research Trust promotes food producing trees as especially welcome, not only for their nurture of the soil, but for their concomitant food production. Bacteria and other “fringe” soil members are also encouraged for the work they do. Small predators nourish themselves on other nutrients and organic matter which in turn they pass on. I now appreciate, even more than when I was a boy maturing in Michigan, that trees are, along with my dog Clare of Assisi, “man’s best friend”. We may summarise the wide ranging wisdom throughout this book by noting that, as soil creatures, we secure a sustainable future for our agriculture and food and life with God on Earth.
Dr Edward P. Echlin