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Bible Culture Agriculture – Part 1

I’m just old enough now that I can say to some (more than I care to admit) that, “I remember when…”.

The truth is, I remember when gasoline was $0.70 a gallon, when you could get glass-bottle sodas and  cigarettes from pull-lever vending machines. I remember vinyl records, 8-tracks, cassette tapes, boom boxes, walkmans, and CD’s. Yes, I actually heard someone say just the other day, “Who buys CD’s and DVD’s anymore?!”

Wait, what?!  I do!

As a product of the last quarter of 20th Century America, the one thing I can not say I remember, is when most Americans grew, at least some, of their own food. Yes, this does predate even me.

We have to go back to the 1950’s to see a time when over half of the produce consumed nationally was grown in family gardens. You see, when WWII ended, there was an abundance of chemical factories that needed to produce something commercially because the Bouncing Betty, bullets, and bomb manufacturing bubble busted with the fall of Berlin and the glassing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Enter the age of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and the dawn of the industrial model of agriculture.

Now one other thing I can remember, is the hysteria when the world population breached 3 billion. Just a few decades later and our species has blown past 7 billion, knocking on the door of 7 and ½ billion human beings treading the face of Yahweh’s good earth.

Many would look to the advent of industrial agriculture as the reason why we can sustain these numbers. For arguments sake, let’s shelve that debate for now.

The question I have is this: do we see the world, or our nation, or our local community as having benefited culturally from centralized, commoditized, industrial farming? That is to say, do we see it as a net positive or net negative when society – on a local, national or global level – begins to congregate en masse in urban environments, and forsakes its food onus to a smaller and smaller group of people?

Most of us would agree that rural, agricultural based communities tend to be much more moral communal constructs than crowded metropolitan boroughs. Unfortunately, the 2010 US Census surveyed that less than 20% of our nation’s population now lives in rural settings—shrinking by 8% from the previous census. Compare that to when at this point last century, over half of the nation resided in rural settings.

Intuitively, anecdotally, or statistically it would seem that we could improve our lot as a nation by returning to the biblical values heritage that was long cultivated in our collective countryside, agrarian based communities.

In Part 2 of this discussion, we’ll explore just what it is that Scripture has to say about about Yahweh’s original designs and purpose for human society, and our intended role within creation.

Until next time, Hope Lives!