When was the last time you stopped to think about how real your food really is bite-by-bite? Is your food real food or “fiction” so-to-speak? How whole is your food as opposed to overly processed and overly loaded with hormones and treatments in the effort to mass produce it, to where it’s less and less identifiable as real, whole, and even healthy?
Mass production of food is the result of all of us not wanting to put the work into producing our own food at least in part. When my Mom used to milk her own goats and raise her own chickens, I recall tastes of her food being much more rich and healthy than what I eat from the stores. We’ve gotten to be around chickens of late, and I’m more and more a fan of getting my hands dirty and enjoying the fruit of some involvement in food production at the small, holistic, and local level. I don’t know how deep into this I’ll get long-term, but I’m realizing there is something humbling and healthy about being involved in the production of at least some of what one eats.
How realistic is it though to expect a society that has quickly and increasingly become dependent upon mass food production to back up to at least let’s say community gardening or co-op efforts such as, “You raise some egg laying chickens and I’ll do some cycles of meat chickens and George over there will barter for some of these things and hand off some beef, etc.” This is all quite idealistic but not far fetched in the more stretched out communities such as Merced and Tuolumne Counties where we have lived and worked as a family over the last ten years.
There is something of this conversation in spiritual growth I believe and in savvy around public policy and healthy governance of populations – representative democracy. Am I stretching this? I think not.
When we back up a few steps into our history as the United States of America, we realize that there is an opportunity for cultivating virtue when one presses one’s feet into some soil and gets reacquainted with what it takes to get a roof over one’s head, food on one’s table, and healthy fellowship into one’s routines. When we at least honor our roots as a society, we realize that we take a lot for granted, and in so doing begin losing touch with reality.
In no way am I going to argue that everyone needs to do the things I’ve begun taking firm steps into doing:
- Flipping real estate has reminded me of what it takes to have a stable home with everything up and running, and I’ve been reminded of true value vs perceived value. It’s also allowed me to not be up to my eyeballs in debt to do real estate investing. Our home in South Carolina is genuinely worth $37,000 to me (which is what we paid for it from selling our California single family house and taking out the equity), but because of perceived value, it may well sell at $90,000 give or take. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Values are relative to supply and demand and many other variables. When we properly value things however, we don’t get as caught up in the rat race. I now, through careful steps, own a house outright in South Carolina. Feels good. Feels right. Lots of prayer has gone into this reality being just that, a reality. Renting out a back room in what was our house to travel nurses allowed us to have net zero cost housing here in California for quite some time. I don’t expect others to do just as we have done, but we have seen some close friends begin to benefit from taking notes and doing the same or similar. My main observation personally however has been to realize that keeping our eyes open and developing industrious solutions to current needs in a community can often generate both capital and cash flow. Real estate investing is an avenue that is currently providing for my family’s needs and beginning to free us up financially from nearly a quarter million dollars of debt from the start of our two businesses here in California ten years ago. In fact, we are nearly done with paying off all of that debt, and most of the momentum for doing that has happened in the last two years.
- Growing/raising food (plants and animals) is more and more something I believe I’m supposed to get knee deep into, and again, in some ways it is to learn it, know it, experience it… in part so I can share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those this leads me into contact with, and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with these experiences being part of my path with my wife and children. I don’t in any way assume others need to walk into this path, and I realize that my unique circumstances can lend me to being able to grow and raise food personally more easily than others. This blog is read by a short list presently, but it’s my only current public/online context where I intend to share what God is teaching me through His Word, fellowship with other believers, interactions with the lost, and through life and work experiences.
- Neighboring is more and more something I’m preferring over “social” media contexts, neighboring as well as friendships/contacts made with others through business and just day-to-day interactions. When we were flipping the house in South Carolina for instance over a six week period, we made so many wonderful neighboring and merchant-like friendships – connections in our neighborhood as well as at the insurance agency in town, hardware stores, gas stations, restaurants, etc. We really enjoyed ourselves and were enjoyed and were able to experience mutual blessing during our time there. I’ve stepped back from house church planting for a season, gotten off of social media, and even gone to a flip phone predominately (still check my iphone for about 30 minutes some days, but I’m less and less dependent on any of the tools on that phone). Result of all of this? Real life. Simple as that.
Faith and food have something in common, and fiction has something to do with not steadily paying attention to the first two. Imagine if we cared more steadily about what we put into our bodies spiritually and physically TOGETHER as communities. Imagine if we labored at this together. That’s part of why I like some level of bartering when I think about growing our own food as the days go by. Imagine if you gave a frozen chicken to a neighbor and they gave you some frozen blackberries they picked with their kids… In a way, even there and then you’re breaking bread with each other. You’re co-laboring at life – literal life-giving food – TOGETHER. You more and more would know where your food comes from – literally who picked your food or who raised and killed that chicken or cow, etc.
It’s similar in forming spiritual families, local churches. We should know what each other are up to during the week, what we are putting into our hearts, how we use our eyes for instance and hands and feet. Does Joe who presented God’s Word to us on Sunday treat his wife and children with love and pastor his own household as he speaks of shepherding our body? How humbling is it that we are all sinners and yet by the blood of Jesus saints as well? How incredible that we get to build one another up and grow up into Jesus Christ together as households of faith all in the one household of faith, the Father’s house, the family of believers all looking to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith?
As we eat one holy food – the communion table meal – we partake of Christ, we together join into one holy feast, feasting upon the goodness, holiness, eternality of Jesus Christ. What a holy reality that we get to attend to one another humbly and daily as a farmer attends to his crops and a rancher attends to his animals.
My hope isn’t to perfectly get my hands and head and heart around all of this, but I’d hope to grow into more grace and humility over time as God works on me, my wife, and our children to be more connected to reality, ultimately humbled and broken before God. My prayerful hope would be to prayerfully begin thinking through ideas for how to get more people the opportunity to be more connected to food production for their own provisioning, not saying everyone will be interested, but what would it take to make it more available to anyone ready to dive in?
One dream of mine would be to build out mobile home parks outside of cities where each tenant has an affordable rate to place their own home that they would own (mobile home or tiny home). They would have the option of either participating in a community garden or having their own area to raise some animals or grow some food. Far reaching ideal? Not really. The existing mobile home parks are being bought up by hedge fund owners and are being priced out, pushed out of reach for day-to-day real estate investors like me. So? Why not snag land outside of cities and develop it out for this vision? It’s a long ways off if I don’t have others who see this vision and dive into it with me. God will provide if this is ever supposed to happen, but it’s certainly a vision that meets the needs that everyone has (housing, food, community) while not being cult like – you don’t have to be a Jesus follower or tied into a particular religion to dive in and be a tenant. It’s a business opportunity where needs and wants very much trending in the USA are being met all in one ideal becoming a reality. It could become quite a big thing or not happen in any way officially. Done poorly it could easily become quite a messy and sloppy situation. Done with excellence it would be quite a special opportunity to provide to folks. More and more remote working would also allow for this kind of environment to thrive, as well as the large wave of Baby Boomers looking for simple and sustainable solutions for fixed income housing.
If it’s mean to be, God will guide and provide. For the time being we are flipping properties and establishing some rental income and keeping up our current business endeavors and getting into some seedling ideas for food production ourselves, all while listening closely for the LORD’s still small voice to guide if/when this vision is of Him. God is our Provider friends!
Our ultimate hope is placed in Jesus Christ.
(my little flip phone that’s always on me)