We are re-introducing this letter for new members, and as an inspiration-refresher for continuing members: As you get into the rhythm of eating through the farm season, here is our vision for how the CSA can shape your life. I wrote a version of this letter to the ministers participating in HarvestShare, through a special program with Life Around the Table and the Duke Endowment. We realized it’s a vision we should share with all HarvestShare members:
It’s a joy to invite you into a season of fresh vegetables and fruits from Anathoth Community Garden & Farm. As a way to deepen your Sabbath discipline, Anathoth will provide the option of weekly boxes of abundant fresh produce, grown from our garden and farm. You’re invited to welcome a vision for peace and healing into your life in the most intimate way: by eating it.
I’ve learned that this premise is both deceptively simple and deceptively difficult. On the one hand, weekly produce, pre-selected and pre-washed, with recipes and meal plans included, may seem like a straightforward offer. At the same time, you’re asked to do the work of trying out recipes, remembering to pick up the boxes, finding time to cook, and coaxing children or teenagers – or yourselves – to enjoy the food.
But we encourage you to embrace this season of eating with the reverence of a spiritual discipline – like fasting, or daily prayer. How does eating healthy and fresh food, grown well, create rhythms of health and wholeness? You may notice what’s easy or difficult about the practice. But how are you transformed?
First of all, these fruits and vegetables grow from a miracle of a transformation. Anathoth’s garden was first tilled 13 years ago, for the community of Cedar Grove to seek peace in the wake of a murder. At a community vigil mourning the murder, local farmer Scnobia Taylor had a vision to gift a plot of land to the community, to be a place of healing. She and Grace Hackney, then pastoring Cedar Grove UMC, envisioned a community garden where neighbors could gather to tend the land, confront divides, and “cultivate peace.” Scnobia gave five acres for the community garden. The garden project, now its own non-profit, has grown to include a farm. Local high school and young adult interns help us grow food to distribute to 200 households, through a sliding-scale CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) ministry called HarvestShare. Approximately half of all the households in HarvestShare request to receive the produce at no cost: everyone pitches in what they can, and receives what they need.
You’re invited to enjoy the fruits of this harvest in your own homes. But you’re also invited to use HarvestShare as a starting point in your congregations and communities to ask: How is what we eat an expression of our faith? How does the common table, like the Communion table, present us an opportunity to commune with our neighbors and our deepest beliefs? How does it call us to confront ways we are broken by injustice? How can we receive life as a gift and extend that gift to others, whom we come to know and love as equals?
Your church or community might begin to answer these questions by visiting the farm and garden, or inviting us to share testimonies with your community. You might start your own ministry like HarvestShare, or support a farmer near you. You might dig deep into questions of brokenness in labor rights, access to land, housing, education, the justice system. Wherever HarvestShare leads you, we hope that the experience will resonate for a long time. We hope it will equip you with the vision and resources to seek change within your own life and your community’s life.
These possibilities may seem at first like daunting tasks – rather than an extension of Sabbath rest! But we hope that, instead of wearying you, they spark your imagination to find ways to seek healing and wholeness: between people and the land, each other, and God. Ultimately, we hope that the path of seeking wholeness will bring you deeper into Sabbath peace. We’re excited for our season together.
Julia Sendor and Chas Edens
Anathoth Community Garden & Farm