Jules (my husband), our two young girls and I moved to Ashburnham Place last October to manage the four-acre kitchen garden. It is an extraordinary place. We feel utterly privileged to get this opportunity and, at times, overwhelmed with the potential (and the weeds – sorry to all the foraging weed-lovers out there). We had read The marvellous pigness of pigs, a book by a farmer called Joel Salatin, years earlier and were dumbstruck by some of the statistics. A chicken egg from a chicken locked up in a secure factory farm has approximately 47µg of folic acid compared with 1,200µg in the egg of a pastured chicken! I think this small but significant fact is probably what made us want to live differently.
The produce of the kitchen garden goes to the community kitchen and the orangery and is sold at the farmers market. The land is a gift. I could write here about our ‘no dig’ approach to food growing (check out Charles Dowding) or tell you about all the tomato varieties we aim to grow, but for us, this is secondary to the people that get to enjoy the space. The land is a gift from God for us to enjoy and collaborate with. When we get our hands in the soil, it helps to bring healing and peace and, in turn, we pray people will meet their maker, the one who made the soil and can restore us to wholeness.
Caring for creation must be done in community. For us, there is no other way
We have a wonderful team of diverse and devoted volunteers who commit to growing food and building relationships. This has definitely been one of the highlights. We have seen friendships grow and people flourish whilst planting seeds (we like these seeds), potting and weeding for example. The kitchen garden would be a sad-looking place without the ever-growing, ever-changing team. Which leads me to sharing about one of the challenges.
Even with a fantastic group of gardeners, the task of growing food is never finished. The bindweed returns, the cabbages are taken out by caterpillars and, for no apparent reason, the peas don’t want to climb. When we first started, we had a clear word: ‘undone’. We have sat with this word and wondered, ‘How do we get okay with that incomplete feeling? With the fact that we’ll never tick off every item on the to-do list?’ It is uncomfortable to leave each day with so much more to do, and yet the lesson runs deep. It really is God who gives life, and the end point is really the journey itself. We are so grateful for the seasons. We love the promise of spring, the rapid growth in summer and the abundance of autumn. Winter is a welcome opportunity to recoup and rest. If we only ever lived in the summer of growth and reward, we would be exhausted.
‘I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.’ (1 Corinthians 3:6-7, NLT)
This verse is evidently about the seed of the gospel, but how wonderful to witness that physically happen in a plant pot. It is a beautiful reminder of our happy dependence on Jesus.
There are so many ways to get involved in growing your own food and it would be wonderful to see more people growing lettuce on their front doorstep or joining a local allotment group. It is more important however, and more attainable, to get passionate about the food on your plate. Where is it from? Was it grown using organic methods? Is it local and is it seasonal? As you ask these questions about your food, you will find that your thirst (and hunger!) for a different way of eating will grow.
This article was written by Kate Bloomfield for nature and food, a Wild Christian email. Kate and Jules manage the four-acre kitchen garden at one of our Partners in Action, Ashburnham Place.
Image by : Rachel Kiley.