Hearth to Heart: How food and agriculture create community

Everyone eats. We need to in order to survive, but our relationship with food has grown far beyond basic survival and into another human need: connection. From the days of hunters and gatherers feasting together, to religious traditions like breaking bread, to first dates at fancy restaurants, we bond over food in a way that is uniquely human.

When we sit down together for a meal, we are for a time built from the same sustenance and drawing from the same life force. We talk and we laugh as we nourish ourselves, and we delight in each other’s company and in the food before us. Food is one of the ways we experience another’s culture, and a way to celebrate our own. Even if you’ve never been to a certain country, you’ve likely tried its cuisine and gained some insight into the daily life of someone living far across the world. Food not only transports us in space, but it is also a way to time-travel via taste buds—making your grandma’s famous cookie recipe is a sure-fire way to transport yourself back to her kitchen to when she would let you lick the spoon. Food means so much more than survival. It means community, it means connection, it means love.

Agriculture represents community in its purest form. Elsewhere in nature, packs will hunt together and mothers will feed their young, but humans are far more intentional and thoughtful about how we keep each other fed. Agriculture manipulates nature in such a way that lets us thrive and lift each other up. Farmers use space that would otherwise yield nothing useful and turn it into valuable and life-giving land. Agriculture is a world-wide effort to keep each other healthy, while also keeping the earth healthy. Farmers don’t directly benefit on a survivalist level if someone across the province enjoys a really great potato. And yet, they care. They care about keeping people they’ve never met healthy, and they care about advocating and caring for the earth.

In a year where gathering around the dinner table during the holidays isn’t possible, let’s remember that community doesn’t only mean physical closeness. Know that even if you eat at the table alone this Christmas, the potatoes you eat alongside your turkey dinner were grown by someone, harvested by someone, delivered by someone, and sold by someone. It takes an entire network of people to get that potato onto your plate. That is community, even if it is invisible. That single potato represents compassion and love, even if the person who planted the seeds has never seen your face.

Delight in your food—it is the most beautiful way to celebrate togetherness, even while apart.

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