This story is similar to my own journey in understand the relationship of economics to the purpose and mission of the church.
We tried to imagine an economy informed by the narratives of scripture, one bearing witness to the reign of God. It would be made of the same ingredients as the dominant economy: the same money, jobs, buying and selling goods and services. We weren’t going to try to roll back to a subsistence economy, or a household economy, or barter, or self-reliance. What was needed, we thought, was an economy not based on the goals, values and practices of this age, but one based in the life and teachings of Jesus, as revealed through scripture and the life of Christian communities through the ages.
An economy driven by such a direction seemed to be one in which all are taken care of; none acquire wealth at the expense of the others; all have what they need to live on; excessive consumption is not valued but a shared communal life is; mutual dependence is pursued; true costs are measured; all are called on to participate; we avoid categories that place some in the role of service provider and others in the role of service recipient (volunteer, minister/ministry, needy…). We assume we have all we need to take care of each other as brothers and sisters, fellow members of Christ, the living expression of the grace and provision of God.
We are the most divorced from ecology and agriculture civilization in history resulting in a cultural ignorance when it comes to food. As was recently said by Joel Salatin, “we know more about the Kardashians than we do about what we eat.”
As I stood there today in the presence of farmers, pseudo-farmers, and food shysters I began to ponder what initial questions we asked while perusing produce and what might be helpful to others. Here is what I came up with:
Food is treated as a private good in today’s industrial food system, but it must be re-conceived as a common good in the transition toward a more sustainable food system that is fairer to food producers and consumers. If we were to treat food as a commons, it could be better produced and distributed by hybrid tri-centric governance systems implemented at the local level and compounded by market rules, public regulations, and collective actions. This change would have enormous ethical, legal, economic, and nutritional implications for the global food system.
[T]he value of food is no longer based on the many dimensions that bring us security and health, including the fact that food is a:
Basic human need and should be available to all
Fundamental human right that should be guaranteed to every citizen
Pillar of our culture for producers and consumers alike
Natural, renewable resource that can be controlled by humans
Marketable product subject to fair trade and sustainable production
What if you want to root out petroleum investments in your own life? Could you? Granted, your contribution may be small as ever, but divestment is picking up steam. It got name checked by the president during his now-legendary Sweaty Forehead Speech, and it’s getting attention from the mainstream media. Here’s The New York Times on Sept. 6:In the 1980s, it was South Africa. In the 1990s, it was tobacco. Now fossil fuels have become the focus of those who would change the world through the power of investing.
Markets like Crossroads support immigrant farmers by connecting them with other immigrants, making it easy to exchange knowledge, and helping them find a way to return to their agrarian roots.
The Crossroads farmers’ market is known statewide for being the first farmers market in Maryland to electronically accept various types of nutrition benefit programs: food stamps, known federally as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); as well as senior food assistance vouchers. Dudley explains that the market committed to accept electronic food stamps after paper vouchers disappeared in the late 1990s.
Although there is a growing population of Latino and Hispanic farmers in the United States, they often struggle with linguistic, cultural, and legal barriers. According to the Agricultural Census of 2007, Hispanic farmers are the fastest-growing population of new farmers and grew 14 percent from 2002, as compared with a 7 percent overall increase in farm operators.