Today at ARI the participants (the title we use for the students) went through their field and livestock observation. The participants were asked questions about the crops they have been tending and the animals they have been raising. Anything was fair game and it required them to think on their feet. “How long does an eggplant plot need to rest before planting more eggplant?” “What are some methods for preventing worms on cabbage plants?” “What is the difference between okara bokashi and chicken manure bokashi?” “Describe local resources from your country that could be used in pork production?”
All of the questions during today's observation got me thinking about my own education and learning about food. One of my regrets is that I never took any of the great agriculture classes that my high school in North Dakota offered. I was busy with 3 music classes per day (which I loved), but I missed out on the meat cutting class, just to name one example. But being on this farm in Japan where we grow about 90% of the food we eat, I realize that I often neglect to acknowledge or appreciate the time, know-how, and care that goes into producing the food that sustains my life. I came across a quote that resonates with what I am feeling and think it's worth sharing.
“Consider how Americans might respond to a proposal that agriculture was to become a mandatory subject in all schools, alongside reading and mathematics. A fair number of parents would get hot under the collar to see their kids’ attention being pulled away from the essentials of grammar, the all-important trigonometry, to make room for down-on-the-farm stuff. The baby boom psyche embraces a powerful presumption that education is a key to moving away from manual labor, and dirt—two undeniable ingredients of farming. It’s good enough for us that somebody, somewhere, knows food production well enough to serve the rest of us with all we need to eat, each day of our lives.” Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
When I think about the education we do in the church, I think food and God's provision of it are also neglected areas of biblical and spiritual reflection. Who are we if nothing but dependents of this God who makes rich the soil for staple sweet potatoes, who shades spinach leaves, who strengthens an egg's shell? To praise God is to keep this dependence in the foreground. Humans do not grow food. We are in one sense mere custodians, arranging seed and accoutrements and letting God do the rest. Farmers know this kind of dependence deep down and we can learn a lot from those who grow our food.