I come from a small town in rural Western Colorado. It’s a place where people have cattle ranches and apple orchards, and where hunting season is a valid reason to miss school. Good ol’ ‘living off the land’ is valued and praised and the biggest event of the year was (and still is) the county fair. At the end of every summer, hundreds of kids, youth and adults enter competitions to see just who’s the best at self sustainability. Best duck, fattest pig, strongest goat, most delicious pie, etc…those are just a few of the competition categories.
Food security is defined as “the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” Though we never used the term “food security” when I was growing up, the idea of do-it-yourself, living off-the-land independence is, in many ways, a celebration of food security. That’s why, when some UM team members and I visited Lorena, (a participant in the Food Security Project) for breakfast a few weeks ago, I immediately identified with her joy and pride as she showed us her first radish harvest.
“It’s really exciting to have your own harvest,” Lorena told me. “It feels good because I didn’t know these types of projects existed and this type of support was available for the community.”
“I like it a lot because you can get to know more people, and I get to learn more about how to cultivate my garden. Whatever I don’t know, the project leaders are willing to teach me… like how to make things look nice or what to do if there’s an infection.”
I relate to Lorena’s excitement. I share Lorena’s love of learning about gardening (I even interned on an organic farm in college where I learned more than you can imagine about basil), but even more, I love seeing Lorena and other community members celebrating their own food security; sustainable, local, do-it-yourself access to natural, chemical free vegetables, eggs and rabbit meat.
There is a unique beauty to the joy of seeing a grandma scoop up one of her hens, give it a little kiss and comment, “Having hens again… it make me feel like I have life again.”The glow of pride and dignity at raising healthy rabbits, being the first to have hens that are laying eggs or having the biggest radish… it’sa joy that contagious.
As many of you know, we are on the final stretch of Set the Table initiative focused on raising the funds needed to provide food security to 400+ of our key community leaders. This project is about so much more than chickens, rabbits and radishes. It’s about training and education so that community members are more food independent and secure. It’s about making friends and getting to know your neighbors: while leaders attend bi-monthly trainings, they start to get to know each other, people start to make friends and the social fabric of the community is strengthened.And last, at the heart of this project is SHALOM, a sense of being right with God, self, neighbor and environment. As families celebrate their harvests and start to enjoy the fruit of their labor, the contagious glow of pride and dignity (and the pure deliciousness of local food) reverberates throughout the community, an unseen agent of hope and SHALOM.
Friend, as summer turns to fall and we enter the season of pumpkin patches, corn mazes and harvest celebrations, I invite you to join in Setting the Table for community leaders in Mexico and Colombia. Just $50can help cover the cost of 3 laying hens which provides 3-4 healthy meals for a family each week.
Come one, come all.At the table of hope and shalom, there’s space for everyone. Together, let’s Set the Table.