By Mikaila Gawryn Earth Ministry Outreach Associate
Today for lunch I will eat mashed turnips. Yes, you can indeed mash turnips and they have a wonderful, spicy flavor. I am new to turnip consumption and was reminded of this last night as I pulled the thick imperial purple skin off the plump tuber. My father walked in and immediately said, "Wow, what a great turnip!" (I of course looked up radish twice in my cookbook before remembering that what I actually had was a turnip, and this is after having pulled it from the ground myself!!)
It feels like even one generation ago children grew up more familiar with their food than they do today. My father is not very interested in cooking and I was expecting to explain to my family what beautiful earthy things I had brought home that evening. Yet to my surprise he recognized the vegetable at a glance.
The soil from which I pulled this magnificent bulb is on the Clean Greens farm, run by New Hope Baptist Church. Sara Jean Green, of the Seattle Times writes that Rev. Robert Jeffrey Sr. started the farm with the mission to "bring affordable, organic produce to the poorest families in Seattle's urban core." The project had a rocky start, but after set backs they started bringing in the first harvest last Friday. The volunteer based harvest events are called Clean Greens Harvest Parties. I had the honor of bundling verdant spinach and gathering collard greens the size of prehistoric dinosaur feet.
"The best place for each is where [she] stands."- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said "The best place for each is where [she] stands." I believe Emerson is saying that knowing the earth we live on ought to be our personal work. Emerson quoted his life long friend Henry David Thoreau, who expanded upon this point: "I think nothing is to be hoped from you, if this bit of mould under your feet is not sweeter to you to eat than any other in this world, or in any world." Today the soil that Thoreau refers to still yields sweet things for us to eat. Both Thoreau and Emerson understood that a love of the earth directly beneath our feet should be cultivated before we head out into the larger world. What better time to learn this than as a child?
As I walked along the furrows of the Duvall farmland on Friday I felt cold rain from collard greens on my hands and heard birds speaking to one another in surrounding hedges. Clean Green Farm is organic, providing homes for birds and small snakes which keep insects and weeds at bay.
As one of the younger generation I know I lack familiarity with the earth that provides for my air, food, shelter and water. Working at the Clean Greens Farm gave me a taste of the sweetness that comes from knowing this land personally.
In my time at Earth Ministry I have had the opportunity to work on the Caring for All Creation module At the Table. This module provides liturgical, educational and logistical resources to Christian communities interested in learning about why food choices should be sustainable choices if they are rooted in faith. Churches can choose to partner with a local farm or host a sustainable community meal after they learn about food and faith in their worship service.
Through my work I've found that Washington has numerous opportunities for people to learn about this land upon which we stand. Supporting the Clean Greens farm through volunteering is one of those opportunities. What is exciting about the Clean Greens farm is that it is also an opportunity to provide healthy food for people that need it the most. This is exactly where our faith based food choices should lead us.
If your congregation is interested in learning about the connection between food and faith the expanded version of At the Table will be out by the end of this year. But in the meantime you can still be involved! Stay tuned for information about future Clean Greens Harvest Parties on our digest.
Take some time to mash some turnips and if you can, teach a child, or yourself, to recognize the goodness that this earth beneath our feet produces. Perhaps if we do this, there can be hope for us after all.