How does one come to have a sense of gratitude towards the gifts of the land? For me, it has come through personal experiences on the land. This summer I had the privilege to work on a farm and grow vegetables and it has been through this hands-on experience that a sense of wonder and gratitude has grown in me.
Michael Pollen talks often in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma about how our conventional food system keeps us blind and alienated from the sources that our food comes from and the journeys that it takes to reach our table. To plant and nurture seeds oneself, rips away the blinders of the industrial food system and connects one back to the earth that has been made to nourish. To plant a seed and see it grow into a mature plant that could produce such bountiful amounts of food never ceases to cause me to wonder. I am in awe of this natural miracle. Munju Ravindra writes that “the key to our survival is wonder” and “in wonder is the preservation of the soul.” Wonder is lost when we lose connection to the natural world and to our food.
Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen write about their experience as urban homesteaders in Hope Beneath our Feet. They write that “it is pleasure that inspires [them] to do more and more.” This pleasure is described in greater depth as fresh tomatoes still warm from the sun or orange-yolked eggs from your own hens. Many people would see what people like Kelly and Erik do as backwards or lots of unnecessary work, but it seems that once one has experienced the pleasure and wonder of growing their own food – there is no going back. No food will taste better then food grown yourself, and the whole process of caring for the earth and plants that will meet our needs creates a new relationship to food.
One moment that I would like to mention that stood out to me was the last week on the farm we butchered roosters. When I was young and I had been an observer to chicken harvesting and cattle butchering before but this was the first time that I can actually remember being a part of it hands on. I can’t say that it was a life changing experience, but it connects me deeper to my food and am able to be more grateful to the animals that have given their lives so that I can have food to eat. The processing of the roosters began with a prayer giving thanks for the lives of the birds and for the nourishment that they would bring. This is such a different way to approach food then on a mass industrial level. I can be more grateful for the life of the plant or animal that I have on my plate when I have had a close experience with similar beings. It is good to be reminded from time to time that for me to live something else had to die.