Artful Land Care

Archive for the ‘SAGE Quest’ Category

Removing Upton Sinclair’s Gag and Re-Learning Good Food Treatment

In JustLiving Farm, SAGE Quest on August 23, 2015 at 9:00 am

15.08.23

August 23, 2015

Last week federal Judge Lynn Winmill ruled the Idaho Ag Security Act law unconstitutional. The “ag gag” law made it a crime to make undercover recordings or gain employment at a farm under false pretenses. Idaho legislators developed the law after an activist filmed and posted a video online showing cow mistreatment at an Idaho dairy, which led to death threats toward the farmer.

In his ruling, Winmill considered Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle. Winmill noted, “Sinclair, in order to gather material for his novel, ‘The Jungle,’ misrepresented his identity so he could get a job at a meat-packing plant in Chicago.” While focusing on immigrant exploitation, the novel heavily dealt with the treatment and conditions of livestock found in early 20th century packinghouses. The Jungle so impacted American society it lead to the passage of the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. The kicker for Winmill is, “Today, however, Upton Sinclair’s conduct would expose him to criminal prosecution under” the Idaho law.

The Winmill decision does not enhance the existing lives of animals, humans, or plants within today’s agricultural industry as much as it maintains a modicum of animal wellbeing. Enhanced wellbeing may come, but not before people begin to learn their own wellbeing is tied to that of animals, plants, soil, and water. For that to occur, grandparents, parents, and children must begin to understand where their food comes from and how it gets to their table.

The public’s engagement in understanding food is critical because the Winmill decision can also have a down side. Today, the disengagement of people from their food is so great they cannot distinguish between good animal treatment and bad. Awful or horrendous is easy enough to differentiate, but because of the gulf between people and their food, too many folk experience good animal treatment as bad. Lack of knowledge on the public’s part can only lead to mistreatment of farmers and ranchers who are treating their animals well.

Thirty some years ago we had the county veterinarian come by our place. Someone had driven by and reported one of our horses as mistreated. We took the vet out to the horses and introduced him to Barney, a 27 year-old quarter horse. Barney was as skinny as an old horse gets, ribby and hippy. After a bit we all headed up to the house, sat down, and had a cup of coffee. The Vet observed horses are no longer a part of peoples live. Read the rest of this entry »

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Generational Food Justice

In Animals, JustLiving Farm, Peace & Justice, SAGE Quest, YCM on August 2, 2015 at 12:07 pm

15.08.02

 August 02, 2015
[Post By Selys Rivera: Yakama Christian Mission Intern 2015]

This is supposed to be humane? I thought to myself when David Bell took me to the cattle auction for the first time. He wanted to take me the first week I arrived so I could handle it better once we brought workgroups. I’m glad he did so too because I was on the point of tears.

Cows, bulls, steers, heifers, all corralled into small spaces, running into each other, stumbling over one another. The cowboys and girls on their horses chased after them with paddles, flags, and whips to move the animals along. One cowboy even yelled, “Hey! You son of a bitch. Hey!” over the desperate mooing as he tried to force an extremely frightened steer into a corral.

One beautiful, brown steer with a white face met my gaze with tired eyes as he struggled to maintain his footing against the many other, larger cattle around him. He didn’t fight back or try to escape. He had clearly been there all day and gotten used to the circumstances. Perhaps he had even been there before. His calmness told me it was indeed humane.

The paddles, whips, or flags weren’t hitting them; instead, they were only surprised by the sound made by the instruments. They had some space to move. They were fed and kept healthy until they were sold. The animals freaking out the most were the ones who probably hadn’t had a day of stress in their lives, who were raised on pastures with their families. Plus, it’s understandable for the cowboys and girls to get frustrated every once in a while, but most of them were patient with the animals. The place really could have been a lot worse. In fact, many of cattle would later go to worse places, to factory farms or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) where they would spend the rest of their lives standing in a pile of their own shit. They would get even less exercise, they would get fatter, and they would sell for more.

Suddenly, I cried the tears I had been fighting, feeling helpless. As a vegetarian, I know I don’t support the CAFOs or factory farms, but people who do surround me. Plus it’s more than just cows, or even pigs and chickens. It’s all food. Read the rest of this entry »

God is in the Flies

In Animals, Reservation, SAGE Quest, YCM on July 19, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.07.19

July 19, 2015
[Post By Selys Rivera: Yakama Christian Mission Intern 2015]

When I first arrived at JustLiving Farm/Yakama Christian Mission this summer, I was determined to prove I was more than just a city girl. So to detox from city life, I sat down on a bench and willed myself to connect with nature.

There were stunning mountain ridges that sat patiently for my acknowledgement. The wind danced with the grass, the tree branches, and the flowers, expecting a high score from me for the performance. The crickets chirped, the sprinklers sang, and the cows mooed in a well-rehearsed musical composition. Together, shades of blue met green, spurts of red, and pink, creating a canvas unlike any I had ever seen. As I watched, the fresh scent of grass kissing flowers introduced itself to my nose. The wind danced with my hair then and I suddenly realized that everything I experienced expected me to sigh one word: “breathtaking.”

But I couldn’t and here’s why.

Butterflies waved as they passed by, merely implying their greeting, but not the flies. The ants continued their workday below me, too busy to chat, but not the flies. Unlike the butterflies, simply gliding to their destination didn’t satisfy the flies. Instead, they anxiously zipped here and there, unaware of how to fill the extra time. They weren’t as busy as the ants either, so they constantly buzzed their anxiety to each other, their choices in conversation local always near my ears.

As a result, the more I tried to enjoy time away from my iPhone, laptop, Netflix, and kindle, the more I struggled against one fly in particular. It must have realized what I was trying to do and found it hilarious. It didn’t think I could truly unplug from my gadgets and connect to nature. It laughed at even the thought of it – buzz, ha, buzz, ha! Read the rest of this entry »

Forever Learning, Forever Teaching

In JustLiving Farm, Landscape, SAGE Quest, YCM on June 21, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.06.21

June 21, 2015

[Post By Selys Rivera: Yakama Christian Mission Intern 2015]

There it sat, promising it could get me to where I needed to go if I only had the patience – a 1986 Nissan pickup truck.

The yellow paint was faded with age. The trunk suffered from something similar to tendinitis. The steering wheel sometimes took a bit of muscle, frustration, light perspiration, and mumbled swear words to turn. The driver’s side door was temperamental, refusing to lock from the inside and only locking from the outside when it felt like it. Despite all of this, though, the old King Cab had some fight left in it yet.

There was only one inconvenience keeping me from eagerly taking it for an exploratory ride around Yakima County. The little yellow intern truck David and Belinda Bell had lent me for the summer had a manual transmission. Since I only knew how to drive automatic, I knew I had some learning to do if I was going to be a productive intern for the Yakama Christian Mission.

I was suddenly sixteen again. Every driving skill I mastered in the last five years was set back to a beginner level. It was more than the difficult aspects too, such as driving in reverse or doing a three-point turn. I couldn’t even press the gas without making the truck jerk, sometimes stalling in traffic. My face would turn the same shade of red as whatever stop sign or light I had jerked to a standstill in front of that day. Each time, I felt like the truck was taking me by the shoulders and shaking me in frustration. My goodness! Get your act together. What an embarrassment.

The truck wasn’t the only one frustrated. I wanted to shake the truck back. “Don’t you think I’m trying?” I mentally retaliated. “Give me a break! This isn’t as easy as it looks.” Then my left foot would prematurely depart from the clutch and the truck would stall again. I smacked my forehead against the stubborn steering wheel several times. Read the rest of this entry »

A Summer of Conversation and Theology

In SAGE Quest, YCM on June 14, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.06.14

June 14, 2015

For fifteen summers there’s been an intern(s) at the Mission (before I arrived as well…however, I have found no records to who and when. So, if you were or you know someone who was an intern at the Mission, please send me contact information!) This summer, Selys Rivera, a senior at Florida Southern College, is interning at the Mission and living at the Farm. Selys arrives having nearly finished and a bachelor’s degree in English—with a writing concentration, and a minor in Spanish. She finishes her undergraduate degree this December! Though living in Florida, Selys’ landscape of birth is Puerto Rico and Massachusetts is the landscape of her childhood and youth

Today, Selys is a reader, writer, and dancer. She arrived at the Farm wondering about what God’s plan might be for her—wondering through the lenses of reading, dancing, and writing. Which brings an interesting insight to the Mission, for while I enjoy reading and writing myself, the lenses of dancing in the context of the Farm and theology bring a focus I often miss.

This is why I enjoy summers and what makes my work rich. Hanging with young adults each year gives me the opportunity to revisit conversations of faith about God, Jesus, Hope, Redemption, Evil, Good, Forgiveness, Retribution, Love, Spirit (to name a few) in light of the Landscape. Such conversations with young adults from backgrounds different from my own push my edges as it pushes theirs. That, I find, is cool!

So, the theological summer of 2015 has begun. What it holds is to be seen and known. In the meantime, our community will have a young adult who knows herself for the theologian she is, with a voice that will benefit our listening ears.

(By the way…Selys comes to the Mission by way of Disciples Volunteering. She has a small stipend for the summer. If you would like to contribute a few dollars that might allow her a trip to Seattle, backpacking in the Cascades, or hiking the Columbia Gorge, feel free to send the gift to Yakama Christian Mission, PO Box 547, White Swan, WA 98952.)

A Kitchen of Culture, Life, And Conversation

In JustLiving Farm, Landscape, SAGE Quest on May 10, 2015 at 8:00 am

15.05.10

May 10, 2015

The kitchen is a favorite room of mine. Hard to imagine it isn’t everyone’s. Good food, good company, and good talk roll over the counter top and fill the house. Not a big room, but open with movement between kitchen and dining is hardly noticeable.

Our home is a back door home. That is, it is one of those homes that a knock on the front door means someone has arrived who has not visited before. After the first visit folk come to the back door. The back door leads straight into the kitchen, so it naturally the homes main room. Which suits us just fine. Folk soon learn that when we are expecting them to give a quick knock, walk in and walk in and grab a cup of coffee or tea—if we’re out in the pasture we’ll show up before too long. The kitchen/dining space is space where friends and neighbors sit laugh, argue, converse, and eat good food.

Spring break groups often have a stint or two in the kitchen. Spring means March, which means wind that blows so hard an outside conversation is next to impossible. During the summer, groups hang out in the barn and converse, but the barn is full of hay and equipment in the spring. So the kitchen fills up with thirty folk and we talk about justice in the landscape.

Every once in a while a group leader contacts me and together we will work to develop a unique spring break. A few years ago a pastor in Watsonville, California called and we developed a spring break where the kitchen stimulated the weeks conversation.

Each day the community baked or fried a cultural bread. Each bread: Wheat bread, fry bread, tortillas, etcetera promoted conversations on culture and we folk carry have different worldviews. The type of bread, its ingredients, and its making helped folk to think about how bread is reflective of a people’s poverty and prosperity. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Elder

In SAGE Quest, YCM on October 26, 2014 at 6:00 am

14.10.26

October 26, 2014

One does not have to be in the church, any Christian church, for long before hearing a low wailing bemoaning the loss of young folks. I do not know if the same holds true for folk in Judaism, Islam, or other religions, but the loss of young adults have freaked-out Christians for a number of decades. The freaked-out truth is seen in the countless books and blogs on strategies to bring youth and young adults back to church.

My ten cents worth (and ten cents ain’t worth much today) is we Christians don’t deserve to have young adults in our congregations. If that comment is raising a rash and face muscles are tensing up, let us talk for a moment or two, before the fits kick in.

Hiring a young pastor, a youth pastor, creating a youth group, supporting youth events, funding youth worktrips, and giving youth the fireside room are all actions congregations have taken to keep or attract youth to church. There is nothing wrong with implementing any of those. However, each can be problematic if folk believe those actions alone will lead to young adults returning to their congregation. After all, congregations have been implementing those ideas for decades and young adults still are not in their churches. Read the rest of this entry »

Protecting the Young

In Reflections, SAGE Quest on October 4, 2014 at 6:00 am

14.01.04

October 04, 2014

Protecting the young. Most species are inclined to shelter their young. From the individualness of tree top hawk nests and haystack mouse nests to communities of goat herds, duck flocks, and seal pods, creation cares for its young giving them their best chance to for tomorrow.

Great fear comes in protecting the young. A fair amount of can I do it and do it well settles in as bellies swell. Yet fear of letting go and allowing the young to enter life’s struggle is just as great. Whether it is mother hawk with nestling at nest edge readying for flight or mother human holding a hand waiting for first day school bus, the tension between letting go and protecting, shelves fear in the heart.

Finding the time or place to ease up on protection and allow the young to make their mistakes, and too often know hurt—intellectually, emotionally, physically, spiritually—are hard questions for parent, herd, and flock.

I don’t know how many times an eighteen-year-old at the farm has said, I don’t feel like an adult. As I heard a young man say it again this summer it struck me how the lack of balance between protection and letting go is damaging our young and our community—think of the injustice of an 18-year-old signing up for military service, or voting, or having a beer, who do not think of themselves as an adult. Read the rest of this entry »

AM Radio Justice

In Reflections, SAGE Quest on August 24, 2014 at 12:35 pm

14.08.24

August 24, 2014

It has been a busy summer and like other folks who blog and run a farm, the blog settles down somewhere in the back forty waiting for a moment of rest—often after fall harvest.

Though farm work is busy and there have been more pastoral visits than normal, the summers weeklong SAGE Quest group visits are done. After weeks of folk at the farm, having justice conversations, it seems as if some extra time has popped up (One reoccurring conversation this summer was on time…more about why that last sentence is a bit problematic another day.). So, maybe a little more time for writing and a regular blog entry are in the future, but I miss those daily conversations with visitors that often got a bit edgy.

A conversation arose last month due to a public radio announcement. When SAGE groups are around I keep the farm truck radio set to an AM country station. Two reasons. You get a taste of local culture and a taste of rural justice. Many folk visit the farm thinking country music a bit backwards. However, by having the radio set to an AM station, playing older country music (because it is an AM station), I get to point to the justice of musicians like Guy Clark and bring about a reconsideration—Like many rural folk in my landscape who don’t understand Hip-Hop culture and the justice of much Rap music, neither do many non-rural folk grasp the justice many country musicians (though let’s be truthful and say both have a fair amount of junk).

So, the conversation happened like this. I’m on the road Tuesday, mid-morning, with two youth in the pickup. We were heading for Noah’s Ark, the areas only homeless shelter. We’re three miles from the farm, turning north onto South Wapato Road and an announcement comes over the radio, “It is illegal for drivers to give to panhandlers at busy intersections in Yakima.” Read the rest of this entry »

Framed Roof

In SAGE Quest, YCM on August 29, 2012 at 6:43 am

August 29, 2012

framed roof.
reaching blue sky.
wonder, what might be?
ground of being.
solid foundation.