Author: Michezaji “Che” Axum, Agronomist and Agriculture consultant – EarthAndFood Inc.
The Faith Community Should Support Urban Agriculture
Urban agriculture began in the Garden of Eden. In fact, the two most important events in the bible occurred in gardens: the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane. Religion has been a prime reason for making enclosed outdoor spaces sacred. Early civilizations designated certain sanctuaries for religious purposes and bound them with markers, walls, and fences. Historically, church grounds have been used for crop production and raising poultry and small livestock. In ancient Egypt, food gardens were always part of spiritual structures. This has been true for Christian, Islamic, and Buddhist religions for over centuries.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to think differently about urban food and nutrition security.
Faith-based groups of today have always been involved in the food distribution for the urban poor, but rarely have they been involved in urban agriculture in producing that food.
The Biden administration is taking steps to give urban agriculture the attention it needs. For the first time in the history of USDA’s Farm Bill, there is an acknowledgment of the importance of urban agriculture.
Funding support will be available for growing food in city parks, vacant city lots, schoolyards, and churchyards.
Is there a reason urban religious organizations should not have a food garden associated with them? Even if these institutions do not have land, tomatoes or nutrient-dense herbs can be grown indoors or outdoors in pots.
Faith-based group property is a major land user in urban areas. In general, religious property does not pay taxes. Often it is a gift, not a purchase.
The land that it occupies has the potential to contribute to sustainable local food production and nutrition security.
The purpose of most religious organizations is to serve the community; food production can be an important part of that mission.
The miles of cars in line to receive food assistance during the height of the pandemic is enough to move faith-based leaders to create urban food hubs.
Concerns about global warming, loss of community cohesiveness, lack of fresh produce in some urban areas, and the high cost of transporting food from far-away places should generate new energy in religious urban food production which can be aptly named, “spiritual farming.”
Che Axum is an agronomist and agricultural consultant.