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"Food and Faith" Leader: Environmentalists Shouldn't Fear Religion

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Organic Transitions page and our All About Organics page.

Gardens have had a place in the Judeo-Christian tradition from the very beginning, yet the organic food movement has more often been seen as a secular endeavor. Enter Fred Bahnson, "minister of the land," a Duke Divinity School graduate turned organic farmer who spent four years leading a community garden through his North Carolina parish. In his book "Soil and Sacrament," which came out this week, Bahnson explores the burgeoning "food and faith" movement, which approaches issues like organic agriculture, feeding the hungry and social justice from a spiritual perspective. "The command to care for soil is our first divinely appointed vocation," he writes, "yet in our zeal to produce cheap, abundant food we have shunned it."

Bahnson spoke with Salon about his book and the connection between what we eat and what we believe. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What would you say is the essence of the food and faith movement and what do you mean when you say it could change the food system?

I think the essence of the food and faith movement is about connection. It's about reconnecting with the sources of our food, it's about reconnecting with each other through community, and it's about reconnecting with our faith.

Obviously that implies disconnection in all those areas. Speaking of the larger food movement, I think that sense of wanting that connection is also true. But I think the larger food movement stops short. Yes, we need to switch from industrial to organic agriculture; yes, we need healthy food access in food deserts; we need food sovereignty rather than a corporate-controlled food system. But what's missing is a recognition that food is intimately connected to our spiritual wellbeing as well, and unless we acknowledge that, we're going to end up having truncated conversations.  


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