HARTFORD – Community gardening, sustainability and supporting local agriculture were just some of the issues addressed Tuesday evening at Hartford Seminary where more than 90 people congregated for the Conference on Food and Faith.
Sponsored by Hartford Seminary and The Interreligious Eco-Justice Network, the conference drew clergy, students and gardeners together to discuss the reciprocal relationship humans have with the earth.
Through presentations and group discussions, the attendees learned ways people of faith could get involved with local food production and distribution. Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener, executive director of the IREJN, said she hopes people will take what they learned from the conference and start some initiatives in their community.
“These types of seeds start something,” she said.
As a panelist, Monique Bosch, founder of the Westport Green Village Initiative and chair of the Environmental Action group at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Westport, discussed community supported agriculture. CSA, she said, is a way for consumers to eat locally grown “farm-fresh” food.
CSA, is when a farmer offers pre-paid shares of its product directly to the public.
“A key benefit is that there’s no waste,” Bosch said. “There’s no need to store food and stick it on a shelf somewhere.”
She explained that in grocery stores, up to 40 percent of food spoils before it gets sold, and is thrown away. Through CSA, she said, spoiled food can be composted and fresh food that goes unsold can go to local food banks.
She presented tips on how one could start a CSA in their area and told attendees they might be surprised how quickly it picks up steam.
“The simple act of bringing people together to share food can quickly evolve,” she said. “It just shows us that when we follow through on an idea, and it’s a good idea, things just seem to fall into place.”
Unitarian Universalist Society: East has been active in community gardening for several years, and at the conference two of the church members explained how their congregation has been educating its youth about sustainability.
“Why do we grow our own food? … Too many people, especially kids, think food comes from the supermarket,” Ellen Castaldini said.
The children at UUE helped prepare the church’s garden by tilling the land, planting the vegetables and tending the garden. The garden was planted about five years ago.
Janet Heller, a member of the church and a member of the Northeast Organic Farming Association Connecticut Chapter, explained that any congregation can create a community garden by placing it in an area that gets lots of sun, with good soil, has access to water and has a strong microclimate. UUE collects rainwater to use on the garden and uses recycled goods, like old cross-country skis, as a trellis to support the vegetables.
Eli Rogosa, an organic farmer who spent 15 years running community gardens in Israel and Palestine, also spoke at the conference. Nature, she said, is bountiful and generous. She titled her talk “deep ecology, deep economy and deep education.”
“If we work with nature, we should have everything we need,” she said.
At the conference she and the other panelists offered their expertise to the guests through group discussions and brainstorming.
“What we’re trying to do here is build community and learn from each other so we can go back to our community and bring back the inspiration we’ve found here,” Rogosa said.