Hello all! My name is Kate Strathdee and I am currently an intern for Mennonite Creation Care Network.
I am entering my final year at Carleton University in Ottawa Ontario, majoring in Global and International Studies with a minor in Environmental Studies. I am a member of Breslau Mennonite Church and currently attend Ottawa Mennonite Church.
This article will explain why I am passionate about food justice.
I grew up in Kitchener Ontario. There was lots of access to green space. My parents would spend much of their free time gardening, canning preserves, and cooking healthy meals. We also lived not far from our local farmers’ market and would get a lot of our produce, meat, dairy, and eggs from there. While we did occasionally indulge in processed food, it was never for something other than a dessert. Since my parents were well-off, they were able to ensure that the foods they fed their children were healthy and sustainable.
I would often accompany my parents in planting carrots, harvesting mint, and eating mulberries from our big mulberry bush. I loved helping my parents in cooking meals and spent a lot of my time reading cookbooks such as the Simply in Season cookbook. I knew that there was a lot of unhealthy food that existed and there was food inequality. At church and in school, I learned about poverty and knew that many people could not afford food, let alone nutritious food. But what I did not know at the time was that our food system is built in a way that is ecologically damaging, leaves many in debt, and contributes to many chronic illnesses. In my preteen years, I learned about problems caused by palm oil, water privatization, industrial agriculture, the prohibition of seed saving and other challenges that persist in the mainstream food system. It was disturbing to hear these findings so I wanted to work at changing the system. I signed petitions and kept track of what politicians’ views were on agriculture. I eliminated red meat from my diet and decided that when I got to university, I would become a vegetarian. When researching post-secondary programs, I ended up choosing the broader interdisciplinary degree of Global and International Studies.
I have been politically active ever since I was 10 years old and always understood that my commitment to follow Christ included working to change unjust structures that exist in our society. Much of my time in University has been spent on writing papers about climate change and how to ensure that the energy transition puts the most vulnerable in our society, specifically BIPOC people and blue-collar workers, at the centre of new job creation.
Once the pandemic hit, I started to reflect on how much our distance from nature is the reason we are in this ecological mess in the first place. I thought about how many people do not know where their food comes from, and how this pandemic shows us that not all aspects of globalization are beneficial. As I ruminated on these things, I thought more of my commitment to changing our food system when I was younger and connected it to my fight for climate justice now. Around one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the agricultural sector. We can not completely solve the problems of climate change without looking at food. We need the next generation to get involved in regenerative farming.
The Church can get involved in this.
Some Mennonites are already ahead of many people on this issue. The More with Less cookbook pointed out that economic globalization has hurt the poor, the soil, and human health. The Simply in Season cookbook is based on eating seasonally. The new Sustainable Kitchen cookbook follows this tradition, providing many more vegetarian options. There are many Mennonite organizations that are engaged in regenerative agriculture. However, much more needs to be done if humanity is going to solve the climate crisis.
This year I will be writing a major research essay on Mennonites who are engaged in regenerative agriculture and how they got started. Telling stories and finding common themes can inspire others to get involved and realize that big and seemingly impractical ideas can create solutions when people put their faith into practice.
If you have any stories of Mennonites farming ecologically, let me know. Once I have finished the project, I will happily share my findings with others.
I’m not sure what I will do after university. It might be farming, advocating for equitable policies, or writing policy. What I do know is that there is much work to do to heal our broken food system that is driven by capital rather than by the rhythms of nature.
As Pete Seeger says: “God’s counting on me, and God’s counting on you” to do the work.