An estimated 900 million people globally will go hungry today. The continually increasing population of the planet, along with environmental degradation and crop damage due to climate change, the rise of biofuels, and agricultural distortions due to export farming add to the instability of local food cultures, creating conditions of increased food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition.
Through its attention to the healing of creation and the Faith,In Project's focus on "living your faith, loving your community," the United Church of Christ helps support sustainable agriculture in communities in the United States and through the world.
The UCC's Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, N.C., for example, is located in the second largest "food desert" in the United States. The goal of Franklinton Center is to work with local residents, farmers, the faith community, and elected officials to help address this concern.
Among countless other projects, Center Director Vivian Lucas, her colleagues, and community volunteers tend a two-acre garden. In spring 2012, with the help of a farmer who plants cotton on part of the 97 acres of agriculturally designated farmland on the Franklinton Center campus, the team broke new ground for the "Just Food" project.
"We are overjoyed with the possibilities blooming at Franklinton Center at Bricks," says the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries. "With the resource of 250 acres of land and hunger action dollars, we are able to dedicate a rich section of soil to launch a sustainable agriculture program there. Our hope and prayer is that it will serve the surrounding community in ways that Change Lives - ours as well as theirs."
The center grows cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, corn, collards, onions, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, turnip greens, green beans, peas, kale, butter beans, beets, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melons, eggplant, and all kinds of herbs. The goal is that area families in need of food assistance reap the rewards of the harvest.
"In addition to developing an environmentally and financially sustainable vegetable farm on the site, the center is working with partners such as U.S. Department of Agriculture, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, local cooperative extension agencies, and others to develop a training program for gardeners and small farmers," says Center Director Lucas.
Globally, a new initiative with partner church United Church of Christ in the Philippines has started at the church's Center for Integrated Rural and Agricultural Development. Situated on a 4.6-hectacre church property, this training center will focus on rural and agricultural development in the faith-based perspective by teaching and promoting alternative and sustainable farming methods and practices that are appropriate to the context of the poor farming communities in the Philippines.
The center will offer courses that will impart knowledge and skills to farmers to encourage the practice of alternative farming as the more practical option to the traditionally adopted high-cost and high-input farming practices. It is under the community ministries program of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, which aims to provide relevant and responsive services (as faith expression) to farming communities, and is supported by the UCC/Disciples Global Ministries and the UCC's One Great Hour of Sharing offering.