Reclaiming The Sacred in Food and Farming

Reclaiming the Sacred in Food and Farming…
In Around the web on March 13, 2012 at 5:58 am

From JOHN E. IKERD
Professor Emeritus of Agricultural & Applied Economics
University of Missouri Columbia College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

What is this thing called spirituality? First, spirituality is not religion, at least not as it is used here. Religion is simply one of many possible means of expressing one’s spirituality. William James, a religious philosopher, defined religion as “an attempt to be in harmony with an unseen order of things.” Paraphrasing James, one might define spirituality as “a ‘need’ to be in harmony with an unseen order.” This definition embraces a wide range of cultural beliefs, philosophies, and religions.

Farming is fundamentally biological. The essence of agriculture begins with conversion of solar energy through the living process of photosynthesis. The food that sustains our lives comes from other living things. If life is sacred, then food and farming must be sacred as well. Throughout nearly all of human history, both food and farming were considered sacred. Farmers prayed for rain, for protection from pestilence, and for bountiful harvests. People gave thanks to God for their “daily bread” — as well as for harvests at annual times of Thanksgiving. For many, farming and food are still sacred. But for many more, farming has become just another business and food just something else to buy. Those who still treat food and farming as something sacred may be labeled as old-fashion, strange, radical, or naïve.

But, the time to reclaim the sacred in food and farming may well be at hand. The trends that have desacralized farming may have run, even overrun, their course. There is a growing skepticism concerning the claim that more “stuff” – be it larger houses, fancier cars, more clothes, or more food – will make us more happy or satisfied with life. There is growing evidence that when we took out the sacred, we took out the substance, and have left our lives shallow and empty. Humanity is beginning to ask new questions. The old questions of how can I “get” more is being replaced with questions of how can I “be” more?

The answer to this question, at least in part, is that we must reclaim the spiritual dimension of our lives. But, how can we reclaim the spiritual or sacred? And, how will doing so change the way we farm and live? These questions will be addressed, but first we need to understand why we took spirituality out of food and farming in the first place and why we now need to put it back in.

Until some four hundred years ago, nearly everything in life was considered spiritual or sacred. The religious scholars were the primary source of knowledge in the intellectually “enlightened” world. Kings, chiefs, clan leaders, the people who other people looked to for wisdom were assumed to have special divine or spiritual powers. It was only during the seventeenth century that the spiritual nature of the world became seriously challenged. Among the most notable challengers was Descartes who proposed the spirit/matter dualism. “The Cartesian division allowed scientists to treat matter as dead and completely separate from themselves, and to see the material world as a multitude of different objects assembled into a huge machine.” Sir Isaac Newton also held this mechanistic view of the universe and shaped it into the foundation for classical physics.

Over time, the mechanical model was expanded to include the living as well as the “dead.” Plants, animals, even people, are now treated as complex mechanisms with many interrelated, yet separable parts — in spite of the emergence of quantum physics that now challenges the old mechanistic worldview. Reductionism, which attempts to explain all biological processes as purely chemical and mechanical processes, has come to dominate the applied biological sciences from agriculture to medicine.

The spiritual realm, to the extent it was considered at all, was assumed to be in the fundamental nature of things – the unchanging relationships of which scientists sought to discover. There was no active spiritual aspect of life, only the passive possibility that spirituality was somehow involved in the initial creation of the universe that we are now exploring. The more we understood about the working of the universe, the less we needed to understand about the nature of God. The more we “knew” the less we needed to “believe.” As we expanded the realm of the “factual” we reduced the realm of the “spiritual” until it became trivial, at least in matters of science.

Farming was one of the last strongholds for the sacred in the world of science. The shift in scientific thinking had been from a “science of understanding” to a “science of manipulation” (Schumacher). Over time, the goal of science shifted from increasing “wisdom” to the goal of increasing “power.” We didn’t want just to understand the universe; we wanted to dominate it. The purpose of science had become to enhance our ability to influence, direct, and control. “Mechanical” processes – using machines to manufacture things from “dead” matter – were relatively easy to understand and manipulate. “Biological” processes – involving living organisms, including humans – proved much more difficult to both understand and manage. Farming and food are fundamentally biological. So it took far longer to learn to manipulate and control agriculture. Farmers continued to pray for rain, and people continued to give thanks for food – although scientists would have advised us that both were either unnecessary or futile.

But, science eventually succeeded in taking the sacred out of farming – at least out of modern, scientific farming. People tend to be difficult to understand and manipulate. But machines took laborers out of the fields, so farming became more manageable. Selective breeding brought genetic vagaries more or less under control. Commercial fertilizers gave farmers the power to cope with the uncertainties of organic-based nutrient cycling. Commercial pesticides provided simple scientific means of managing predator, parasites, and pests. Deep-well irritation reduced the grower’s dependence on rainfall. Processing, storage, and transportation – all mechanical processes – removed many of the previous biological constraints associated with form, time, and place of production. Farms have become factories without roofs. Supermarkets and restaurants are but the final stages in a long and complex food assembly line. Why pray for rain when we can drill a deep well and irrigate? Why thank God for food created by ConAgra? Who needs God when we have modern science and technology?

But today, as in the seventeenth century, we are in a time of “great transition.” “We are at that very point in time when a 400-year-old age is dying and another is struggling to be born – a shifting of culture, science, society, and institutions enormously greater than the world has ever experienced. Ahead, the possibility of the regeneration of individuality, liberty, community, and ethics such as the world has never known, and a harmony with nature, with one another, and with the divine intelligence such as the world has never dreamed.” These are the words of Dee Hock, founder of the Visa Corporation and creator of the Chaordic model of business organization. Hock is certainly not alone in this thinking. A whole host of futurist, including Alvin Toffler, Vaclav Havel, Tom Peters, Peter Drucker, John Naisbitt, Robert Reich, and others agree that we are in a time of fundamental change. They talk and write of a shift in worldview from the mechanistic, industrial era where power is derived from control of capital and the technical means of production to a post-industrial era where human progress is derived from knowledge — the new source of wealth and human satisfaction. They agree that knowledge is fundamentally biological rather than mechanical in nature and will require a new “science of understanding” to replace the old “science of manipulation.”

The transition to a more sustainable agriculture is but one small part of the “great transition” that is taking place all across society. The questioning that is driving the sustainable agriculture issue, however, exemplifies the broader questioning of society that is fueling the “great transition.” We are questioning the sustainability of agriculture because we have come to believe that our natural resource base is finite, that we and the other elements of our environment are all interconnected, that there is a higher and unseen order of things to which we must conform. Sustainability concerns seem foolish to those who believe that human ingenuity is infinitely substitutable for natural resources, that our environment and we are separable, and that the laws of nature are but temporary obstacles to be overcome through science. Conflicts regarding the legitimacy of the sustainability issue are conflicts of beliefs, not of facts. But, there is a growing body of evidence to support the questioning of whether agriculture or any other aspect of our current society is sustainable.

In agriculture, the litany of sustainability concerns has become a familiar theme. Agriculture – with its fundamental purpose of transforming solar energy into human useful form – now uses far more energy from fossil sources than it captures from the sun. Water and air pollution — associated with commercial fertilizers and pesticides and large-scale confinement animal feeding operations – have become major public concerns. Declining numbers of family farms – a consequence of agricultural industrialization – has left many rural communities are in decline and decay — places without a purpose.

The ethical and moral commitment to stewardship and community among farmers seems to have given way to concern for the economic bottom line. Increases in agricultural productivity have become more illusionary than real as the farmer’s role in food production declines and the role of input and marketing firms rises. Small farms are considered largely irrelevant to agriculture, even though most U.S. farm families still live on small farms. There is a growing disillusionment and a sense of hopelessness, even among larger farmers, as multi-national corporations take over a larger and larger share of agricultural production.

Similar concerns are apparent in the larger society. As population and per capita consumption increase, the ultimate scarcity of natural resources — such as land and fossil fuels – seem obvious to many if not most of us. The environmental movement, born only in the early sixties with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, has grown to permeate the global society as evidence of environmental pollution abounds. The disintegration of families and communities is beginning to have major negative impacts on our societal quality of life. Increasing drug use, violence, and crime are attributed to the decline in ethical and moral values of a disconnected society. Declining productivity of labor, a symptom of treating people as if they were machines, has lead to growing underemployment and economic and social inequities. These and other factors contribute to a growing disillusionment and sense of hopelessness that permeates much of society. At a world conference of intellectuals reported in the book, “Reinventing the Future,” degradation of the environment, breakdown of public and private morality, and growing social inequities between the North and South were three of the four items on the global agenda.

But what do these concerns for sustainability have to do with spirituality? The answer, these concerns share a common source in the removal of spirituality from science and society. The science of manipulation, the quest for power and control, provided the conceptual foundation for the industrial revolution. The fundamental concepts of industrialization – specialization, mechanization, routinization, and control — are based on a mechanistic worldview. The science of Descartes and Newton became a science that sought to separate, sequence, compartmentalize, and control. Growing concerns for ecological, social, and economic sustainability all are consequences of growing industrialization. And, in the mechanistic worldview supporting industrialization, there is no active role for the sacred.

The science of manipulation is a science which separates – mind from matter, people from nature, people from each other, the body from the mind, and the mind from the soul. It’s the science of modern economics that assumes the greatest good arises spontaneously from the greatest greed – that the interest of society is a consequence of the vigorous pursuit of self-interest. The same science that made the industrial era possible is the science that removed the sacred from matters of economics and politics and removed spirituality from the day-to-day matters of both individuals and their communities. We were lead to believe that good science would bring about success and happiness without any help from “on high.”

But, biological and social phenomena never really fit the mechanistic, manipulative view of the world. Living things of nature had to be bent, twisted, bribed and coerced to bring them under control. But, nature inevitably fights back. Questions of sustainability invariably can be traced to unintended consequences of treating living things as if they were inanimate, programmable, controllable machines. A science of understanding – of wisdom rather than power and control – must provide the foundation for a sustainable society.

Using almost anyone’s definition, concerns for sustainability imply concerns for intergenerational equity – a need to meet the needs of our current generation while leaving equal or better opportunities for those of generations to follow. Thus, sustainability is about “equity, forever.” The three corner stones of sustainable agriculture – ecological soundness, economic viability, and social equity – rest upon a foundation of intergenerational equity. Intergenerational equity, in turn, has its foundation in human spirituality. Concern for sustainability reflects a felt need to treat fairly those in whom we have neither self-interests nor shared-interests, in any sense other than spiritual.

Conventional economic theory deals with short-run self-interest. Economic efficiency defines the optimum means of using things up. There is nothing in economics to ensure long run sustainability. Economics is about “me, now.” Conventional public choice theory deals with collective decisions concerning matters of current shared-interest. There is nothing in this theory concerning allocating societal goods and services to ensure a sustainable society. Public choice is about “us, now.” Likewise, many of the current environmental concerns are related to a desire to protect “us, now” rather than our concern for future generations. But, sustainability includes concern for “us and them, forever.” Only the spiritual is capable of transcending the present to address the fundamental issues of long run sustainability. Only the spirituality transcends “me, us, and them, both for now and forever.”

What is this thing called spirituality? First, spirituality is not religion, at least not as it is used here. Religion is simply one of many possible means of expressing one’s spirituality. William James, a religious philosopher, defined religion as “an attempt to be in harmony with an unseen order of things.” Paraphrasing James, one might define spirituality as “a ‘need’ to be in harmony with an unseen order.” This definition embraces a wide range of cultural beliefs, philosophies, and religions.

A Native American, Chief Sealth, or Seattle, said: “Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

From another culture, “the most important characteristic of the Eastern world view – one could almost say the essence of it – is the awareness of unity and mutual interrelation of all things and events, the experience of all phenomena in the world as manifestations of a basic oneness”.

An example of a Polynesian worldview: “The Kahuna told me, if you are looking for God, look out at the sea. Look to the horizon. Get in your canoe and go to the horizon. When you get there, you will meet God. God is nature. God is everything”.

And, from a Jewish Prayer: “And God saw everything he had made and found it very good. And he said: This is a beautiful world I have given you. Take good care of it; do not ruin it…I place it in your hands: hold it in trust.”

Finally, from the Bible: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun; A time to be born a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill a time to heal; a time to weep a time to laugh;… a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace”.

A common thread of all these expressions of spirituality is the existence of an unseen order or interconnected web that defines the oneness of all things within a unified whole. We as people are a part of this whole. We may attempt to understand it and even influence it, but we did not create nor can we control it. Thus, we must seek peace through harmony within the order of things beyond our control. This harmony may be defined as “doing the right things.” And, by “doing the right things;” for ourselves, for others around us, and for those of future generations, we create harmony and find inner peace.

The sustainable agriculture issue ultimately is rooted in a perceived “need to be in harmony with the order of things” — in spirituality. Finding harmony with a higher order requires an understanding of that order – wisdom not power and control. Sustainable farming means farming in harmony with nature – nurturing nature rather than dominating or manipulating it. Sustainable agriculture means fitting farming to the farmer and the farm – not forcing either to fit some predefined prescription for progress. Sustainable farming means farming in harmony among people – within families, communities, and societies. Sustainable farming means farming in harmony with future generations – being good stewards of finite resources. A life of quality is a shared life. A life of quality is a spiritual life.

The goal of sustainability is to sustain a desirable quality of life. Quality of life is not something we can buy at Walmart or Disney World with the money we earn from farming for the “bottom line.” Quality of life is determined by our ability to “do the right things,” for me, for us, and for them. Quality of life, inherently and inseparably, is personal, interpersonal, and spiritual in nature.

A sustainable agriculture, likewise, has personal, interpersonal and spiritual dimensions. A sustainable agriculture must be ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially just. Protecting our own environment is not enough. We must conserve and protect resources for those of the future. Profits are necessary but not sufficient. The economics of short run, self-interests are inadequate to ensure that there will be anything left for future generations. A society without justice is not sustainable — no matter how profitable and environmentally sound it may seem. The economic, ecological, and social dimensions are all essential and inseparable. Sustainability requires harmony among things personal, interpersonal, and spiritual. We can begin reclaiming the sacred in food and farming by reclaiming, up front and without compromise, the spiritual nature of sustainability.

As we reclaim the sacred in food and farming, it changes the way we farm and live. We learn to pursue peace and happiness rather than success. We seek “harmony” among things economic, social, and spiritual – not maximums or minimums. If we focus on any one, we tend to deplete the others, and lose rather than gain what we seek to achieve. Farming solely for the bottom line, for example, invariably takes time and resources away from family and community, degrades the natural resource base, degrades the human spirit, and eventually destroys the ability of the farm to even generate a profit. However, ignoring farm economics for short-run family or religious reasons can be just as devastating in the long run for both family and spirituality.

Our common sense tells us that we must have balance in our lives among the personal, interpersonal, and spiritual. Yet we are bombarded from every corner with the message that having more stuff will make us happy, that success means having more money. Or we may be told that happiness is found only in love of family and friends, and that money doesn’t matter. On Sunday, the message is likely to be that happiness comes only from the love of God, that we should deny ourselves and follow Him. The thesis of sustainability is that “all these things matter, but than none alone is sufficient.” To sustain the sacred in farming, we must find harmony among things economic, social, and ecological – among the personal, interpersonal, and spiritual.

Spirituality does not mean that our rewards must be delayed until after-life, any more than sustainability means we must sacrifice quality of life today for some future reward. We live only in the present, not the past or the future. If we are unhappy today, reaching some future tangible goal is likely to leave us unhappy. If we are happy today, we are quite likely to be happy in the future regardless of whether we reach some goal we now have in mind. The focus of faith and hope may be on things expected or hoped for in the future, but the true benefits of both are in the here and now. “Living in faith and hope” defines a life worth living far more than does achieving whatever is expected or hoped for. Faith and hope are about “now, not when.” Faith and hope are fruits of the spirit.

Likewise the spirituality of sustainable farming is about here and now, not there and when. The rewards come from having adequate, not maximum, income; from having positive relationships with family, friends, and others; and from being a responsible steward of resources for the future. All of those things have rewards here and now, as well as somewhere else at some time in the future. The key point is that the reward comes from knowing that we are “in harmony with some unseen order.” An adequate income, friends and family, and a clean environment are all products, not sources, of our overall sense of peace and happiness.

A desire to reclaiming the spiritual does not guarantee peace and happiness. Reclaiming the sacred simply recreates a “possibility or hope” for a desirable quality of life. We still must seek to understand so we may learn to accommodate rather than dominate and nurture rather than conquer. We need to be wise, not smart. And wisdom may be more difficult to achieve than is cunning. We need to learn to be humble, not powerful. Humility may be more difficulty to master than is control. We need to seek and accept the spiritual in everything we see and do. The physical may be far easier to see and to manipulate. We need to learn to dance with life rather than try to push life around.

To farm and live sustainably, is to farm and live spiritually. Sustainability certainly is not a religion, but it is fundamentally spiritual. Sustainable farming and sustainable living are attempts to work and live “in harmony with an unseen order of things” — to work and live spiritually. To farm and live sustainably, we must be willing to openly proclaim the spirituality of sustainability. We must reclaim the sacred in food and farming.

~~

John E. Ikerd
Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics
University of Missouri Columbia
College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
Reprinted with Permission from the Author
For references, see original article here

Apple Scab- winter work on orchards

This is the time of year that many things are done to achieve your garden goals for the following spring and summer Pruning , cutting back perennials and shrubs sets the garden for the coming growing season . Deciding on the sizes you want the elements in the garden to be is one way to look at pruning. It’s easier to access deciduous shrubs and trees when they are dormant,you can see the branching structure better. Look to where you cut them last year and how much growth they put on this year.Cut accordingly. Learning pruning is a lot about observation.

Transplanting and planting plants at this time is good as well,especially deciduous plants,shrubs,trees, even large roses can be moved. Really look at your garden as a whole, maybe even blur your vision to decide if you like the sizes things have become. You have the choice to prune shrubs whatever shape you want and they can live at. When you are learning pruning look at other peoples plants, shrubs and trees. Look at mature specimens. What size do you want to keep it? What size does it want to grow ? Even large plants can be kept small,but they will try to get to their normal size.Plant accordingly.

I’ve been doing a lot of research into apple and pear problems . Last year because it was so wet the apple scab really affected our trees, and others. This is a fungus which we are particularly susceptible to, living in a coastal environment. Fungus thrives in 50-80 degree weather, we typically rarely get higher or lower than these temps.

Preventative measures to take are to really clean up last years debris under the trees, for this carries the spores from the old leaves to the new leaves. So you rake, but look to see how much more there is to do to get it really clean, leaves not dropped or small dead apples. Then the best method to me seems to be a spray to start the tree off clean in the coming year. The more I research the more I think I’ll do a copper based spray at my house , mostly because I know my trees were infected last year and I think something serious needs to be done to clean them up. I’m going to spray an organically approved copper/ lime spray. With neem oil, another organic fungicide, but it’s also a spreader sticker( usually an oil which helps hold the spray on the tree even with some moisture). The spray needs to be timed to when the leaf shoot starts to come out. Then ten days ( five if it rains then) , and another ten days hopefully finishing with the petals off the new fruit. I want my trees to start off clean so I’m going to do one spray before that, early on in the next few weeks. Usually the trees should be pruned first before spraying, so it’s easier to spray, less to spray.

Because we are having such a warm, dry winter, we might have a very early bud break. Usually bud break is end of January for the earliest trees , early Feb. This will help keep the spores in check too, especially if it’s this dry ( I hope we get more rain soon though)

Spraying needs to be done on a dry day with no possibility of rain for 24 hours . Then sprayed on a sunny , windless, morning that’s when the plants stomatas are open and they will take in the most.

Local Food for the Holidays ! Whew, feeding 24 out of our garden for Thanksgiving weekend


So we made it to the deadline. The building was closed in and warm . We had a table , benches and a sink and even lights. Even though power was only run in with an extension cord.The oil lamps were lit.

Plus our ambitious goal to feed the masses from Tuesday through Saturday only from our garden or locally produced meat. Tuesday was bread preparation for Wednesdays early morning bake. Naturally fermented bread has many steps it goes through from the starter coming out of the frig. on Sunday, then added to and revitalized until Tuesday morning when it becomes the preferment, then dough, then loaves with many hours and folds in between. We ate Fish Chowder, rock fish traded for bread, our potatoes, parsley, garlic, and onions.Served with baby greens salad, purple onion and chopped parsley. Some of our sourdough bread from last week reheated.

Wednesday the oven was too hot. It was 800 degrees at 6am. I needed to get it down to 580 by 8am It keeps fooling us when it’s been fired for a few days, and it is already hot, it’s easy to overheat it. So we had time constraints, trying to deliver our orders so there were some dark sourdough loaves. Still everyone who came by or who arrived gorged themselves on fresh, warm bread. The blue cheese from Point Reyes with walnuts is always a favorite.

My idea was every family would take a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs from our chickens and jam for breakfasts. I think I got those to most everyone. Then Wednesday local cheese and warm bread with snacks for lunch. Dinner was lasagna from our homemade putanesca tomato sauce full of many garden vegetables and put up over the summer. The area we couldn’t keep up the local production was in the dairy. We bought in milk and cheese. Although a local dairy, commercially produced. Oh I would love it if you could again buy milk from small dairymen, but legislation trying to make us “safe” makes that near impossible. With the casserole we had salad with local beets and romanesco broccoli. Fresh bread and a tart made from redhaven peach and crabapple jam I made over the summer poured into a crust filled with frangipani, baked in the brick oven.
The Thanksgiving pies I made that day I was disappointed with because I baked them in a too hot oven, easy to do when the oven is wood fired. I made a butternut squash pie, from squash that I grew, and locally made mincemeat, from Lisa’a Luscious in Point Arena.

Thanksgiving arrived with the Turkeys my brother and his family picked up, I’d ordered them in August from Mendocino Organics, in Redwood Valley, pasture raised . They were the most beautiful turkeys I’d ever seen, so plump and firm, fresh. As Joel Salatin say’s “well exercised”, verses birds stuck in small cages, eating round-up sprayed feed laced with antibiotics . Roasting heritage breeds is different than the huge commercial turkeys, they have more muscle and less fat, so quickly roasting them at a high heat for fewer hours was recommended. We turned then three times and they baked for about two hours in the 450 brick oven. The had been brined the night before and were filled with oranges my neighbors brought up from their tree in LA and our onions. I made the croutons for the stuffing, then local celery traded for some backhoe time, onions and parsley. Bacon or sausage were the two types we made. The turkey was the best I’ve ever eaten. Support local pasture raised meat !

I had really planned the vegetable timing and the romanesqo broccoli and the lettuces, were perfect. The potatoes had looked great from above and I dreamed of letting the kids dig the potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. I dug some up a week before to see the size of all the red potatoes I’d planted.They were covered with a scaly scab. Oh, bummer forty feet of bum potatoes, usable but ugly. But as I dug I found the fingerlings were fine . So I had to BUY some potatoes for the mashed potatoes so wonderfully made by my nephew Casey. The fingerlings were roasted with butternut squash, acorn squash, garlic and rosemary all grown here.


It was a wonderful meal. Followed by what I realized my family “does” when it has many hours together, SING . Then some impromptu acting, charades, and even some fabulous opera sung by my niece . When we were young my Dad, a self professed history buff, decided to try to remember the sea shanty’s he had heard as a child and also mixed with a large dose of Woody Guthrie. He taught himself these on the guitar and we all learned them as kids. We had an old fishing boat and would often show up at Catalina Island on the weekends. As we put down the anchor, my Dad would get out the guitar start singing, with all of us joining in, and the fancy yachts would pull up anchor and move away, leaving us with a perfect spot !

The next day Turkey sandwiches and homemade beer my brother had brewed and brought with him from Portland.

Then I made myself go on a walk, which led to a great mushroom walk all over our property, leading to a continued walk down under Hwy 1 in a tunnel and out to the ocean on the other side.

My brother in law dragged around David Aurora’s huge manual on mushrooms for the next day, looking like a preacher.


We made it to the lighthouse to see the most beautiful fall skies and ocean in turmoil. Another home grown salad and chili (our onions, home canned tomatoes, herbs and belted galloway beef from our local friend) and more bread ! for dinner.

I can’t remember when but everyone rode the horses around, led and instructed expertly by my sister the true equestrian. We had a great time. Everyone helped so much. It was fun to see what we all might do with one another when you have no TV, power, cell reception, internet access or phone. We had great fun and a wonderful visit all based around the hearth .

All the cousins cleaning up ! Thanks to my sister Heather for spending much of her Thanksgiving taking these wonderful photos.

Finding Roots


As we walked by the dining room, the sounds of thirty young men chanting “Ram Yam Kham, Om Ah Hum” with their deep resonant voices came flowing through the windows. The sound went down into my heart and I stood there shaking. We three, twenty year old girls had been trying to “find” where the men hung out in this monastery. Not understanding why these gorgeous,sensitive, burley, men weren’t looking for us . They were so different and unexpected. We had no warnings to stay away from them and had no experience of men that paid us so little mind.

Invited to Odiyan by the patron to help plant an area we had never seen before even in pictures. It was already disconcerting enough to just drive the windy coastline up, seeing almost no cars. On and on we went finally getting really scared when after an hour of no cars, a jeep drives by with about six big men in it, most with guns pointing up into the sky. Where were we ? Where were we going ? Finally a glimpse of what looked like an out of this world UFO, The white Stupa over on the hillside and some views of a shiny copper roof.

This first view of there, now thirty one years later, has stayed in my mind and the sound of the men chanting has stayed in my heart. I found my roots there and a community much like what the farming communities of old knew instinctively. How to work together, how to believe in oneself and my abilities. To gain confidence from hands on work and jobs accomplished from start to finish. Moral ethics required to live in a small community with integrity . What I was looking for in my culture, a sense of place and purpose and of participation in something larger, was all found here. But I still wonder how to instill it in my world and my children’s world now.

What we have lost through the decimation of rural culture and livelihood is enormous. No wonder teenagers are tattooing themselves and piercing their entire bodies. The world of TV, video games and texting has not given them a culture to interface with, only a cloud culture and no ground. The confidence to drive tractors and do important tasks that support the family and the communities well being. The moral character to represent their family and community. The entrepreneurial experience to start small industry and the creativity and problem solving ability necessary in rural life. America has represented this spirit
and creative, innovative genius, yet now has turned it’s back on what it takes to develop it in our culture. Come back to some ground and plant some vegetables, cook most of your meals, don’t buy processed goods shipped hundreds of miles.Teach your kids to cook and use local fresh ingredients. Buy enough from your local farmer to support their efforts. Say through your actions that you want this rural culture to be alive . Maybe we can bring back a community spirit that will inspire our children and give them the roots to succeed .

Food Sovereignty

We have the right to eat what we want, right ? No we certainly don’t . It is not the governments job to “protect” us from the choices we want to make. If I want to buy some milk from my local dairy it should be my choice, the Farmer should not go to jail for selling it to me. This is just protecting the big corporations from competition, even us little tiny guys.

Bring back rural economy, freedom to consume what we choose.

Help our alternative county, sign this Food Freedom petition.

http://www.mendopendence.com/2011/09/16/sign-petition-to-the-mendocino-county-board-of-supervisors-a-right-to-food-of-our-choice/