And does it?! I was asked this in the comments to the post of my convocation photos on Facebook.
Excellent question! But my answer still needs work. Here it is as it continues to emerge.
My attention has been towards bringing attention to marginalized issues. My “mission statement” is the regeneration of soil, soul and society to transform food and farming. I am passionate about promoting greater care of Earth through community engagement, ethical encounters and restorative justice, and by advocating for a trauma-informed world. This is where my MA comes in, which is best defined as a Master of Arts in Religion (Spiritual Care), Culture (Cultural Trauma) and Global Justice (Women, Wars, and Widows). It is transferable back to agriculture because “agri-culture” (see note 1) is very much embedded in the culture of a landscape … or used to be, and I suspect that the “don’t care” attitude towards the earth is rooted in cultural trauma. My hypothesis was shown to be correct because we have lost our connection to the soul of place as 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants in North America.
Culture, of course, comprises anything that involves groups of human beings: experiences of ritual, symbols, ceremonies and artifacts that maintain a set of attitudes, values and beliefs creating a cultural identity that becomes the container for collective memory, knowledge and a particular view of the world that gives the individual meaning (de Young 1998, online). This becomes one’s cultural horizons, which can limit one’s ability to appreciate diversity and the infinite number of ways of seeing and being of our world.
I like to emphasize that culture is very much tied to place and the arts, including culinary arts, music and song. Internally, one’s culture is created, transmitted and recreated through systems of communication (religions, corporations, political systems, marketing schemes, music, etc.) and the resulting social transactions. The collage below is from the cover of my Nuffield Agricultural Scholarship study report (2015) which portrays how food and culture are intrinsically woven into the landscape.
I have not had the opportunity to relate my second year’s MA work back to agriculture. (In my first year, I related a spiritual care therapeutic relationship model to the relationship between the farmer and the land, which I then looked at from a cultural trauma perspective). My Masters research explored inter-cultural and inter-faith realities from a global perspective, recognizing the many different traditional knowledge systems (including sacred texts, oral Indigenous knowledge systems, science, and colonial mindsets that are systemic and also operating as a “traditional” knowledge system) that dictate societal behaviour. I concluded by exposing a “Warrior culture” emerging from a “Hero culture” (as described archetypically, and based on WWII survivor testimony) as the context from which to address behaviour change. This appears to be an easier way to name and facilitate the growing awareness of the necessary consciousness shift (Great Turning) which is desperately needed for the survival of our species (Joanna Macy, Thomas Berry and others). I believe we can start from the ground up; with the soil, the land and the culture embedded with it, and agricultural practices, which all make up “the landscape.”
The threads are very tangled and messy, and I wish they could be easily woven into a gorgeous tapestry (because it’s about generating awe and reverence) so that we can appreciate it and start the conversation. Something unmentionable tied to cultural traumas (yes there are so many horrific and untold stories, including the treatment of the feminine aka Earth) lies between the way we practice agriculture, the quality of food being produced and sold at your local grocer, and the deteriorating health of some segments of societies (aka diabetes and obesity. I believe diabetes to be the disease of the ‘Hero’ attitudinal construct). We need a new narrative – a new paradigm for agri-culture.
I think what is emerging is a need (my calling) to hold a cross-disciplinary “common safe space” or gathering place, where different cultures and diverse belief systems can weave in and out, dialogue and continue this work in a setting that is closely tied to the landscape so that Soul of Place can also have a voice at the table. I have been adding to my facilitator’s tool box since 2011, including Rural Social Enterprise Practitioner training, Circle Keeping (Kay Prantis), a certificate in Transformative Mediation from Community Justice Initiatives (Waterloo) and a certificate in Teaching and Training Adults (Georgian College, Ontario).
The busy noise of the hour must no longer drown out the vox humana, the essence of the human which has become a voice. This voice must not only be listened to, it must be answered and led out of the lonely monologue into the awakening dialogue of the peoples. Peoples must engage in talk with one another through their truly human [authentic and vulnerable selves] if the great peace is to appear and the devastated life of the earth [is to] renew itself. (Buber, M. 1957. “Genuine Dialogue and the Possibilities of Peace” (1953), in Pointing the Way: Collected Essays, trans. and ed. Maurice Friedman. New York: Harpers & Brothers, 1957.)
So to answer the question of “Where does agriculture fit in?’ – the work now becomes a delivery system with the land, rather than another research paper! This movie, All Saints (2017), best explains it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXv6h8avzFM), although I would strip out Christianity for the spirituality or common ground that all religions and other belief/ non-belief systems might possibly share, and from which we can begin inter-religious dialogue. On the land, we can be with the soil, hear to the landscape, and feel the culture of place to identify the agricultural model that can be woven in there. At this time, the method of delivery is not known. It could be an academic setting where I feel most at home, a religious community that struggles to be resilient in these changing times like in the movie, a social enterprise, an online social media forum, a community that wants to try a “Utopian” village model to preserve their landscape and its biodiversity (I have a few ideas)… I proceed with an open mind-open heart 🙂 .
We realize that the earth is a living being, just as we are. Tending earth’s soil, plants, animals and landscapes is sacred work, the work of a farmer. Farms not only produce food, but are centres where we experience our society’s culture and where communities come together to participate in all stages of food, from growing it, preserving it, preparing it and eating it, by knowing (once again) the life force that is in our food, farms and communities. Farmers who work on the land recognize that a spiritual practice is integral to the task of growing real food. This is when agriculture becomes a sacred act. (Deffenbaugh, D.G. 2012. Learning the Language of the Fields: Tilling and Keeping as Christian Vocation. Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications.)
“Everything depends on inner change; when this has taken place, then, and only then does the world change.” (Martin Buber, 1953). “The calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak” (Martin Luther King, Jr). “Upon what does your world-view stand?” (Buber, 1957). And I ask of you the same! Thank you.
- According to UNESCO, to face tomorrow’s challenges, we need to develop a new “agro-culture” which maintains diversity and achieves resilience. To address the challenges of humanity, it is not only the way farmers produce agricultural commodities and make use of natural resources that needs to be looked into, but how all human beings (ie. eaters) from cities or rural areas, “relate to their environment, consume, and manage their biological and cultural heritage.” Agriculture (through the practices of farming) and food (through the practices of eating) are intrinsically connected rather than separate areas of study (Creutzberg, G.M. 2015. “Agriculture 3.0: A New Paradigm for Agriculture: A Nuffield Scholar Review of the Future Possibilities and Choices in Agriculture,” available online).