A Bountiful Harvest

article_image The Harvest Network began with a simple idea: help those who are struggling to make ends meet. What makes The Harvest Network unique is that we help people make ends meet by training them to live sustainable lifestyles, both in the context of the household and in the communities where they live, all the while involving individuals and Christian communities in the process. Much of the philosophy that drives what we do is based on the idea that we are to help people take care of themselves as much as possible and enable communities to help provide for each other by sharing their resources with those in need. By sharing resources, communities can reduce their need for money and therefore reduce their impact of the environment. Many of the approaches we take to helping people are inspired by the Hebrew culture as outlined in the Old Testament. For example, the Year of Jubilee occurred every 50 years in the biblical tradition. During this time, all land was to return to the family of the original owners. By doing so, all of the land was e qually re-distributed to all of Israel, thereby breaking the cycle of oth ers being materially dependent on a system that favored a few wealthy families. While this isn’t currently feasible in today’s culture we are currently working with churches to allow people who usually come to churches for food assistance to use church land to grow their own food. In doing so we are helping to create material independence and dignity, especially for those who would normally receive handouts from the social justice ministries. We have found that something wonderful happens when we do this: community is created between Christians and those who need help. Using church land is just one of the many ways we help people. We also help people to grow their own food in their back yard. This usually begins with a garden, leading into the development of more technical skills for living sustainably. Throughout this whole process of training people to live sustainably we are helping people cultivate community around sustainable practices. We slowly move from individual sustainability to organizing relationships around the needs of the larger community. The technical skills that are further developed include raising chickens and incorporating them into their gardening efforts; food preservation like freezing, canning, and pickling; and any other way to grow their own food instead of buying it. Some social aspects of what we help people do include: recognizing what resources are available in their own community; organizing communal gardens where several households come together to grow more social crops like potatoes and sweet corn; and help them recognize the advantage of doing things like canning in a community setting. By helping people be self-sustainable, we limit their need to purchase products that have been shipped from far off places, produced by the use of petroleum powered machinery, or with an unhealthy use of chemicals. On a larger scale, living this way can have a profound impact on the environment. It reduces our dependence on oil combustion while also reducing the amount of unnatural chemicals in our environment. If everyone grew their own food instead of buying it, we could help create an economy where people rely on community and God instead of industry for their basic needs, an economy where sharing replaces buying and selling. In short, The Harvest Network hopes to help materialize the dream of Matthew Sleeth, and Christians all over, who desire to be good stewards of God’s green earth. By Phil Hall, Director of The Harvest Network For more information about The Harvest Network, please visit www.theharvestnetwork.net.