The term “farm to table” was not a new culinary or trendy idea when I was growing up; it just was reality and inherent to healthy living. I was born and raised in rural New South Wales, Australia, in a very fertile region known for its diverse agricultural crops. My hometown of Camden, about 1 hour south of Sydney, and 45 minutes inland from the east coast, had a sub-tropical climate that was well situated for providing a bounty of fresh seasonal foods from land and sea, including wild plants, mushrooms, common weeds (now offered up as gourmet greens), and other backyard and pasture edibles.
Both of my parents were great cooks and lovers of good fresh food, so we enjoyed family meals prepared at home and often eaten outdoors—in our backyard, on day-trip picnics, and even overnight camping. We had it all, from traditional BBQs to modest, simple meals to gourmet delectables—all amazingly delicious and nutritional. My parents took a natural interest in local food and the growers, starting with our own backyard vegetable and herb garden extending out to other local farms.
I have very fond memories of food shopping adventures with my mother, traveling from one side of town to the other and beyond to the outlying farming areas, to purchase fresh foods in season. She taught me how to select foods at their peak by assessing their smells, colors, weights, and textures, and this included produce, meats, and seafood. My father was a hobby fisherman, so the catch of the day was often part of the meal. I always looked forward to helping in the preparation of dinner and sitting down to eat it with a cheerful group of family members and friends.
So my love of eating good food progressed at a young age to the desire to grow food and be a cook, and thanks to my parents, especially my late mother who studied French and Asian cooking, I also was eager to learn and explore the culinary arts. I developed an innate sense of appreciation and taste for nutritious, well-prepared food, reading cookbooks cover to cover like romance novels. I entered the professional world of hospitality in my mid-teens, mentoring under chefs. What I experienced as a very wholesome and rewarding part of life—the gathering of friends and family around the table—is still an integral part of my life today. From those childhood experiences, I developed a desire to be a part of providing nourishment for others. And I have found that through the good and challenging times in my life, food—growing, preparing, and eating it—has been a harmonizing force for me and my own family.
One of my favorite memories of my school years was the “AG (agricultural) plot”, the extensive school garden that the teachers and children all maintained. These foods went straight to our school cafeteria and into our school lunches. For some reason this smart activity, which included the students in growing some of the food they ate, became obsolete in most schools in westernized countries. Today it is considered cutting-edge and progressive for those few schools who have again begun to practice something that was so common just a few of decades ago.
“Kitchen-based family gatherings are process-oriented, cooperative, and in the best of worlds, nourishing and soulful.”
~ Barbara Kingsolver from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. A Year Of Food Life
Coming to America in my mid-twenties was quite a food culture shock at first. The local supermarkets were almost void of the kinds of food I was used to, and the “fresh” produce had faded colors and smells, which were not appealing for me. What is wrong with the food? Living inland, in the Arizona desert, my food pallet changed, since the foods from here did not resemble much of what I was used to from the rural/coastal varieties of Australia. It was quite an adapting experience!
More disturbing was what was dominant in the commercial food assortment that lined the grocery store isles. The packaging and long ingredient lists revealed a disconcerting picture to me. I would become educated in time about the diminished state of food in America and the lack of good food for many people. The United States is a starving nation amidst seeming abundance, and I have sadly discovered that the abundance is not for everyone.
Soon after arriving in the U.S., I became a student at The University of Ascension Science & The Physics of Rebellion (UASPR) with its campus at Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage. They had a vision and reality that fit my dreams and desires for my life—of living sustainably with others in a lifestyle that was centered around the garden—growing and harvesting life-giving food, with the family working and dining together, enjoying each other and the Creator’s gifts from the earth. Even more exciting for me was how this community reached out beyond our table and garden home to provide to the local community the nourishment and sustenance from our gardens, making produce available for many others through a Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) program.
After almost 20 years of working with the campus kitchen I was blessed to be part of Food For Ascension Café that was located in Tucson, Arizona, and was owned and operated by Global Community Communications Alliance (GCCA), the parent organization for the UASPR. This organic vegetarian café was the culmination of the beautiful vision of the founders of GCCA, Gabriel of Urantia and Niánn Emerson Chase, who wanted to provide a beautiful and sacred gathering place, a farm-to-table restaurant where local seasonal foods were featured, lovingly prepared, served, and enjoyed by the local community and visitors from far and wide.
My work at the Café was a dream come true. Having had an affinity with food since childhood, I felt it was a destiny calling, and this vocation provided me with so much diverse experience. Working both front and back of house, enjoying hosting and meeting our guests, watching their delight as they partook of the Café fare, and the blessing of getting to know the local food purveyors was a very rich time of my life.
Eventually my main focus at the Café ended up being in food ordering (which I loved) and the managing and preparation of the specialized vegan and gluten-free pastries for the Café. As a cook, I never thought being a pastry chef would be a culinary focus for me, but I found it to be very rewarding to explore and discover the science, application, and art of vegan and gluten-free baking. I got much joy in being able to be part of a venture that blessed people who had food allergies with an opportunity to enjoy many nourishing and delicious dishes, including desserts that they would not have been able to otherwise.
The building blocks of good nutrition are well understood, and much has been learned and shared over time in all cultures on the science of food. The spiritual value of food is also honored within many religions and spiritual belief systems, and food can be considered sacred when used as the time to pause and sup of the gifts of the earth and of the divine. This basic foundation should not be the privilege of just a few but for all of humankind.
At the turn of the 20th century, most of the food that we ate came from within 50 miles of where we were eating it, but as the developed and developing countries’ demographics shifted from rural to urban, many local food sources disappeared. The food reality I and many of us took for granted growing up in rural areas or otherwise, we now understand is no longer the norm. The U.S. mainstream food movement has taken a wide path of descension away from the sacredness of food, catalyzing disease in the bodies of many Americans, with corporate giant Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, at the helm of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and in league with other corporate food interests that have been the cause of industrial food disfiguration—altering the natural state in which foods were intended to be consumed. In our fast-paced society of “instant” and overly processed foods, not only have we been led astray from the rightful acquirement of good natural local foods, we have been led away from the fostering and appreciation of local farms and growers.
The trends of the industrialized food economy have resulted in the loss of the basic level of community and common-sense local economy where people benefit from the time given to the art of food in all of its phases—“from farm to fork.” There has been an increasing interest in the return of locally-sourced foods. Knowing where your food comes from, how it is grown, who grows it, how the food is prepared, and by whom is part of the “Slow Food Movement” that also includes sitting down to eat in a warm-hearted setting with family and friends, which is nourishing for the body and nurturing for the soul.
In drastic contrast to the more sensible and sustainable methods of growing, distributing, and processing foods is the reality caused by the now common industrialized food industry that comes with its own terms that describe this reality faced by many in our country.
- “Food deserts” are geographic areas where access to affordable, healthy food options (aka fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and meats) is limited or nonexistent because grocery stores are too far away.
- “Food insecurity” indicates lack of access to a sufficient amount of food because of limited funds. By some estimates, more than 44 million American households are considered food insecure and are vulnerable to poor health as a result.
This picture is a very sobering one. There are steps we can all take to be proactive, making a difference in the lives of our immediate families and reaching notably beyond. Concerned individuals can reverse this negative trend and re-prioritize their food choices and put funds back into their local economy by buying local meats, dairy, and produce. Although the local food movement has gained momentum in the last few years, farmers and organizers encourage the public to continue to demand locally-grown food in restaurants and supermarkets. For farm-to-table food to become the norm rather than the exception, consumers have to continue to ask for local food, or the movement will end up at the back of our minds or the back of our cupboards, like other food fads and trendy ideas. We need to reassess our values on many levels and emphasize quality over convenience. Our dominant materialistic culture is gluttonous in many ways, and this appetite perpetuates greed and exploitation of peoples and our earth’s resources.
If you’re thinking about training for a culinary profession, consider joining me and others in becoming part of the farm-to-table movement (a part of the broader Slow Food Movement) so you can bless your colleagues and customers by crafting culinary creations that improve people’s health and well-being, protect the planet, and support the growth of local economies.
The Sonoran desert is my beloved home, and although a faraway land from my native Australian roots, I feel I have come full circle and have grown to deeply love and appreciate the people with whom I live and work, cultivating the sustainability of healthy relationships and the heritage foods of this area, working in cooperation and breaking daily bread together—from farm to table and back again.
I continue to learn the vast unfolding study of the concept of “food for ascension” at The University of Ascension Science and The Physics of Rebellion, and what this means on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels—how nutrition plays a vital role in spiritual growth and the interconnectedness of us all. I am so grateful to enjoy good wholesome food just like my grandparents and theirs before them—back when there was no such thing as “organic,” because it all actually just was!
Food justice should be a global human right! As a Human Rights Advocate, I embrace the Spiritualution Movement for immediate solutions and the viable way forward. This movement, founded by Van/Gabriel of Urantia/TaliasVan and Niann Emerson Chase, holds the holistic recipe and key ingredients of the wisdom and knowledge of our ancestors, fused with the spiritual science found in The Cosmic Family volumes, necessary for true peace, harmony, and unity on this precious world.
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