‘We’re dreaming of a LOAF Christmas’

AS Christmas gets closer, the Door looks at ways of making the festive season as Locally sourced, Organic, Animal-friendly and Fair Trade (LOAF) as possible. The Revd Canon Glyn Evans, the Diocesan Rural Officer, reflects on why Christians should consider how they source their food.

Kes the Copas Turkey dog looks after a flock at the Copas farm Photo: Copas Traditional Turkeys.

Kes the Copas Turkey dog looks after a flock at the Copas farm Photo: Copas Traditional Turkeys.

Last week we planned our Christmas day menu – for twelve. All the meat and vegetables will be sourced from farmers within 20 miles of where we live and bought through a local butcher, run by young entrepreneurial local farmers. The Christmas cake, the Christmas puddings and the jars of mincemeat already sitting in the larder have been made from ethically sourced ingredients, as Fair Trade as possible, and in support of the local economy of farmer friendly shops. The exercise is very strategic.

Food is a gift of God. Jesus taught us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is as much about physical bread as it is about spiritual bread. The theologian writing the book of Genesis makes this explicit in the narrative of God’s creation. “Behold,” God says, “I have given you every plant and every tree. You shall have them for food.”
And again in the recreation of the earth after the Flood: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything (Gen. 9:3).”

Humankind’s connection to the land is also made explicit in the second story of creation. In Genesis chapter two God is imagined as fashioning the first human being from the earth itself. The first created being is a creature of the earth (Adamah in Hebrew) from which we get the name Adam. Adam is given what is the primary task of humanity, to till and work and care for the same earth from which the creature was fashioned.

In the first accounts of the harvest festivals that connection with the land is identified as a sacred one (Deuteronomy 26) and the bringing forth of the produce encapsulated that sacredness. The gift of land becomes sacramental, a symbol of God’s love for us; the gift of food the outward expression of that sacrament. The instruction to care for the land is the responsibility endowed by that sacramental relationship: “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” When we buy food we are playing a part in shaping the food system and our connection with it. We can steward the earth by using our buying power and making choices. Buying local food creates the environment for growing food and for shaping the landscape we enjoy just as buying fairly traded products is a way of shaping the productivity and wellbeing of farmers and growers in other parts of the world.

Buying local food makes a statement about the effect that food miles have on the environment, and assist the agricultural industry towards their targets of reducing their environmental impact. Buying food which we may have seen grown in the fields near to where we live provides economic return to the farmers who till the soil on our behalf. This may help us connect to the land of which we are a part and bring the sacrament of food a closer reality.

Join the MK Food Revolution

SOURCING local ingredients will be made easy in Milton Keynes at the third MK Feast which takes place at Bradwell Abbey this month. The event follows the success of the twice-annual FEAST. At the first FEAST in February 2016, crowds of more than 3,000 people visited and far exceeded the expectations of the organiser, Franzi Florack.

Franzi expected 400 to 500 people at the first festival, where music and children’s activities entertained shoppers. So she began organising the Christmas FEAST, which will include a range of street food traders, craft stalls, and a farmers’ market. The festival has grown out of the MK Food Revolution, an initiative kickstarted by Franzi when she moved to the area from Leeds last year.   With funding from Smart MK (an initiative run by the Open University), Franzi printed 100 “independent food passports” which she sold for £5. When passport holders shopped with an independent retailer, the passport was stamped and they were able to win prizes. “The scheme was set up to encourage people to shop locally and independently,” says Franzi. The MK Food Revolution website now includes details of 47 independent producers. These include farmers who produce vegetables or meat that is sold locally, street food traders who produce their own food on site, or restaurants that source their ingredients locally.

“It’s really close to my heart to help Milton Keynes become a more environmentally friendly and sustainable community. Small traders have a rough deal as rates and rents are expensive so it’s important that we support them,” says Franzi, an academic who has just finished a PhD and now runs a micro pub and bottle shop, The MK Biergarten (www.mkbiergarten.co.uk) promotes drinks from local breweries and always has a beer from Franzi’s home country of Germany on draught.

The Christmas FEAST takes place on Sunday 11 December from 11am to 4pm.

More LOAF suppliers

THE photo above shows Kes the dog managing the flocks at Copas Traditional Turkeys in Cookham, Berkshire. The award winning farm was founded when Tom Copas Senior’s father gave the 18-year-old 153 turkeys in 1957. Now a family business producing 38,000 turkeys every year, the farm has won an array of awards and Mr Copas himself gained the Turkey Man of the Year Award at the British Turkey Awards in 2013. For more see www.copasturkeys.co.uk. For more details of where to buy organic food in Berkshire here. 

In Oxford, try buying seasonal vegetables from the organic vegetable van that tours the city, parking in different, easy-to-reach streets on different days. For more see cultivateoxford.org/. Also try the Talking Shop in Sandford-on-Thames for a coffee and the chance to buy local produce and crafts on Saturdays, 9am to noon and Fridays, 9.30am to 4.30pm. Just down the road from Oxford is Millets Farm. Enjoy a family day out as well as a place to shop for fresh produce, meat, fish, and Christmas gifts.

Follow in St Nicholas’ footsteps with Fair Trade gifts

Maranda St John Nicolle on why she’ll be giving Fairtrade gifts this Christmas.

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Fair Trade chocolate coins. Photo by Maranda St John Nicolle.

About 1,700 years ago, the story goes, a young man heard about a family so poor that the three daughters faced a very uncertain future. Concerned about their situation, Nicholas – later known as St Nicholas – put some money in a package and dropped it through the window of their house, where it fell into a stocking that was hung to dry. It was one of his many ways of showing love for neighbours – and is the basis for our tradition of Christmas stockings.

Fast forward, and today the parish of St Nicolas, Earley in Berkshire is helping its parishioners fill Christmas stockings with gifts that enable our neighbours around the world to build a better future. A Fairtrade Church, they link with local Traidcraft Fair Trader Pam Thompson to offer parishioners an easy way to buy a wide range of Fair Trade food, cards and gifts.

A Traidcraft catalogue and order forms are available in the church, and can be dropped off in the parish office. Orders are then gathered together, placed by Pam, and delivered to the church – cutting out delivery fees and saving time and money. They’re not alone: church-based Fair Traders in Milton Keynes, Deddington and many other areas are doing the same.

Buying Fair Trade doesn’t have to cost a lot – and it really can make a difference. I’m planning my shopping now. For my niece, for example, I’ll be buying a Fair Trade finger puppet from Peru. As I choose which of the brightly coloured animals to purchase, I’ll remember meeting Julia, a Peruvian Fair Trade producer who told me how Fair Trade had given her hope when, as the struggling mother of a disabled child, she’d felt completely hopeless, unable to work outside the home because of her child’s needs.

A Fair Trade cooperative provided her with a loom she could use to work at home while tending to her child. She eventually became the president of CIAP, the organisation which includes the people who made the finger puppet I’ll be buying.

Some sweet-toothed friends will get baked goods where local products will be joined with dried fruit from the Eksteenskuil Cooperative in South Africa. Eksteenskuil is a remarkable success story of formerly disenfranchised people turning unwanted land into fruitful and productive vineyards that are a beacon of hope not just within their community but for miles around. Their fruit is sweet in both taste and impact.
And for another person (I’d best not say who, as this comes out before Christmas) there’s a beautiful laptop bag from Creative Handicrafts, which helps disadvantaged communities in Mumbai, allowing them to avoid the exploitation that is often present in the garment industry.

While my purchases alone are small, I know that when a lot of people buy small Fair Trade items, they can make a big difference to the people behind the products. That gives real pleasure – and I’m so grateful to be able to celebrate the coming of Christ by ensuring that the presents I’m giving in His honour are helping others to live with dignity.

Maranda St John Nicolle is the World Development Advisor for the Oxford Diocese. For more places to buy Fairtrade click here. 

Embrace an alternative way of giving

It’s Christmas morning. As you open your presents, you find an attractive card with a magnet attached. It’s a present that shows love for you – but you’re not the only one who benefits. The card represents a donation that was made in your honour – and because of that donation, a refugee family in the Middle East has received a much-needed food parcel.

Photo: Embrace the Middle East

Photo: Embrace the Middle East

The past decade has seen huge growth in the giving of “alternative gifts”. The idea is simple and effective: you donate to a charity as a gift to someone here; the charity uses your donation to assist the people and communities it serves; and you are able to give the recipient here a card or other token explaining the gift and the good that it has enabled. Many charities offer them, large and small, those assisting people internationally and those assisting people in the UK.

The past decade has seen huge growth in the giving of “alternative gifts”. The idea is simple and effective: you donate to a charity as a gift to someone here; the charity uses your donation to assist the people and communities it serves; and you are able to give the recipient here a card or other token explaining the gift and the good that it has enabled. Many charities offer them, large and small, those assisting people internationally and those assisting people in the UK.

Embrace the Middle East’s alternative gift range includes not only food parcels, but care for pregnant refugee mothers, classroom supplies, access to clean water, and literacy classes. Jeremy Moodey, the CEO of Embrace, said: “With the Middle East constantly in the news, alternative gifts are a great way for people to respond to the enormous needs in the region.

“The gifts bring joy to friends and family, especially at Christmas when people reflect on the nativity story, but they also bring comfort to those suffering from poverty or war in one of the most volatile regions in the world. Alternative gifts are a beautiful way to connect the generosity of our supporters with those who desperately need hope in the Middle East today.”

For more call Embrace on 01494 897950. Click here for more alternative gift suggestions.

 

Need some inspiration?

We surveyed some local Fair Traders to find out what’s popular at Christmas.

Foods:
Christmas biscuits
Chocolate coins (above)
Zaytoun dates – support the Middle East by buying these beautifully packaged dates from Traidcraft.

Other gifts:
Socks topped the lists of more than two of our Fair Traders.
Also popular are:
glittery boxes
friendship bracelets
finger puppets (below)

Fairtrade hampers are a popular seller at the Mustard Seed in Faringdon.