Shield of the Episcopal Church of the United States Environmental Stewardship Commission
Shield of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota
Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Environmental Stewardship Resolution

The following is offered for your information and comment.  On this and similar pages the Environmental Stewardship Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota intends to offer thoughts and ideas on how any congregation or individual with a congregation can implement portions of the Resolution.

From "A Resolution on The Spirituality of Food Production"
passed at the 144th Annual Convention (October 26-27, 2001)

"WHEREAS we believe that agriculture needs a just, free market system that works for all people; and that it is imperative to have wide distribution of land and resources;"

Thoughts on just food production for everyone:

The Joys (and Responsibilities) of Eating Locally
by Patricia Allen-Unger

June is upon us – warm, sunny days and the promise of those first juicy strawberries and fresh-picked garden peas.  Can vine-ripened tomatoes and sweet corn be far behind?

Not only is food necessary for life itself, but its enjoyment is a source of comfort and community in our daily lives.  How many of our holidays and festive gatherings center around the sharing of meals, prefaced by giving thanks to God for his nurturance of our bodies and souls?   God is gracious in his abundance, and it is our responsibility as his children to be stewards of his creation; part of this is knowing where and how our food is grown.  As farmer and poet Wendell Berry wrote:  “how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.”

For most of history, eating locally was the only choice.  Our ancestors did not have the option of New Zealand blueberries or Chilean grapes in January.  Their milk came from their own or their neighbors’ cows, not from a confinement dairy in California; their Sunday pot roast came from cattle raised on nearby pasture, not grain fed in a Texas feedlot.  Their vegetables were local, fresh and flavorful, having been grown from seeds bred for taste rather than shelf life.  The farms producing our grandparents’ food were small, yet diversified, and supported not only the farm family but also the rural community.  Today, our food travels an average of 1,200 miles from farm to plate, and we are becoming less connected with the conditions under which our food is grown, processed and distributed.

At General Convention 2003, the Diocese of Minnesota’s Resolution on the Spirituality of Food Production was approved.   The text reads in part, “Resolved…this General Convention supports the rights of consumers to know the source and content of their food stuffs; and that the farming and processing practices used are healthy and sustainable for all of creation….”  To that end, we must understand that supporting the local food system works toward achieving these goals.

Minnesota is blessed with fertile soil, abundant moisture, and talented farmers.  The practices of small, sustainable farmers enhance creation stewardship through well-managed soil fertility and erosion control, wildlife habitat preservation, little or no use of pesticides, the use of rotational grazing for cattle, and economic support to local creameries, meat processors and other rural businesses.  Successful small farmers keep their rural communities alive, while working to preserve and improve the environment.

So, how can we preserve our farmland, encourage a new generation of farmers, protect the environment and enjoy wonderful, flavorful food?  By buying locally grown produce, dairy products, and meats raised by farmers who use sustainable and/or organic methods!

Farmers’ markets are overflowing with summer’s bounty from now through October.  Try something new – taste fresh beets, an heirloom tomato, artisan-made cheese or butter, pasture-raised bison, or sugar loaf squash.  Develop a relationship with a farmer or two – ask for recipes for that unfamiliar type of green, ask about farming practices or the availability of meat and poultry delivery during the winter.  Many farmers are involved in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where a buyer purchases a “share” in the farm’s production.  For a fixed payment at the beginning of the season, the consumer gets a weekly delivery of the freshest produce available and the satisfaction of supporting a local farm family.  A number of churches are serving as drop-off sites for their parishioners who are CSA members of the same farm.

Other ways of purchasing wonderful local produce include visiting farm stands and “U-pick” farms as part of a weekend outing, and supporting local co-ops.  Larger supermarkets are carrying more local products.  Even during the off season, you can find local honey, jams, eggs and dairy products.

You may notice that buying local sustainable and organic foods costs more than conventionally grown products.  This is because when you pay the farmer directly, you are paying for the full cost of production plus a profit for the farm family.   Small farms are more labor intensive, as the variety of crops precludes the use of large, mechanized equipment.  Cover crops are used to build soil fertility, thus taking land out of production for a period of time. Nor do these farmers receive government subsidies.

The prices Americans pay at the supermarket checkout do not reflect the true “cost” of their food.   The economies from large-scale industrial farming result in consumers paying hidden costs.  These include taxpayer subsidies on certain commodities and irrigation infrastructure in the West, environmental degradation from pesticide and manure run-off into our water supplies, medical repercussions from subtherapeutic antibiotic use in confinement animals, and social and justice issues surrounding farm workers.

In order to fulfill our covenant to preserve and nurture God’s creation, support our rural communities and ensure another generation of farmers on the land, I ask that you begin by tithing your food dollars in support of locally and sustainably produced foods.  We vote with our wallets, and we can make a real difference in agricultural policy while enjoying delicious, nutritious foods and getting to know our local farmers.

Almighty God, we thank you for making the earth fruitful, so that it might produce what is needed for life:  Bless those who work in the fields; give us seasonable weather; and grant that we may all share the fruits of the earth, rejoicing in your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   (BCP, page 824)

To find sources for local foods statewide, contact the Land Stewardship Project or Minnesota Grown.

Copyright Statement

Patricia Allen-Unger is an active member of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Rochester, MN.  She originally wrote these thoughts in 2004 and they appeared in the June 2004 issue of Soundings, the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota.  Patricia and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to Patricia Allen-Unger or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.

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