Jonny Hanson of Jubilee, a Christian creation care organisation, explains why they’re setting up Northern Ireland’s first community-owned farm, and how to get involved.
All over the world, Christians and churches are rediscovering their mandate to care for creation. Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the subject, Laudato si, has reverberated around the planet, from shanty towns to corridors of power. In a similar vein, the World Evangelical Alliance is establishing a Sustainability Centre in Bonn, Germany.
All over Ireland, too, Christians and churches are rediscovering their mandate to care for creation. The Church of Ireland recently voted overwhelmingly to divest their pension fund from fossil fuel investments and so help tackle the causes of climate change. Likewise, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland have just accepted a report from their Stewardship of Creation panel, adopting creation care as an official position of the denomination.
This concern for the world around us is no mere passing fad or fancy. Rather, it is a return to the original stewardship mandate of Genesis 1 and 2, where humankind was given the privilege and responsibility of looking after the rest of God’s creation, on God’s terms. The rest of the biblical narrative also reminds us that creation care matters to God, and therefore to the outlook and mission of God’s people. In Leviticus 25 we see a society where the wellbeing of families and the wellbeing of the land were inextricably linked, and where the economic system existed to serve this end, rather than exploit it. In Colossians 1, we’re reminded of the pre-eminent role of Christ’s resurrection in restoring relationships, including with the non-human creation, ‘making peace by the blood of his cross’ (v. 23).
The latest scientific evidence complements these age-old revealed truths, detailing how God uses creation to care for us as much as he uses us to care for creation. Physical ecosystem services, like pollination, water filtration and the climate, sustain us; without them, human life and activity could not survive on this planet. Cultural ecosystem services, like tasty food, beautiful scenery and beloved pets, delight and inspire us; without them, human life would not thrive on this planet, and our innate need for pleasure, beauty and companionship would not be fully realised.
In light of all this, we at Jubilee exist to work with Christians and churches in Ireland and beyond to care for creation together, to the glory of God. We also work with local communities to achieve this goal, including with people of differing backgrounds and beliefs. Established in 2017 after several years of prayer, planning and consultation, we define creation care as environmental and agricultural stewardship that incorporates flourishing and fairness, welfare and wellbeing. In seeking to implement this holistic vision, our mission is to practice and promote care farming, community-supported agriculture (CSA), and conservation education and engagement.
For the first six months of 2018, we were able to use a temporary site in the Co. Antrim port town of Larne. In that short space of time we achieved a great deal of exciting things. Over 100 volunteers attended one of our monthly community volunteer days. Almost 100 primary school-age children attended one of our curriculum-based nature education classes. Twenty-four families each purchased a subscription to our pig club and received a quarter pig’s worth of free range pork in return. And at our Bioblitz Festival of Science and Nature in June, we welcomed more than 400 members of the public to participate in a 24 hour programme of walks, talks and activities, with traditional music and a free range hog roast thrown in for good measure.
Now, we’re raising £310,000 to purchase a small farm outside Larne, where we can bring our ambitious plans for Jubilee Farm to fruition, with organic pigs, poultry, goats and vegetables, plus an internship programme, and even “glamping” in due course. Already, we’ve raised £165,000 from existing supporters to purchase the farmhouse. Now, we need to raise £145,000 to buy the 13.5 acres of land, as well as polytunnels and other equipment, by Christmas. As a Community Benefit Society – a form of cooperative social enterprise – we’re raising this money via a community share offer, making this the first community-owned farm in Northern Ireland. Launched in Belfast on 20th October, the minimum investment in the project starts from only £50, making it the perfect Christmas present. But hurry, the share offer closes on 5 December!
All over the world and all over Ireland, Christians and churches are rediscovering their mandate to care for creation. Please consider joining us in putting this mandate into practice at Jubilee Farm.
Find out more about and invest in Jubilee’s community share offer at http://www.jubilee.coop/shareoffer
My poster presentation at the International Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Forum, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 24th – 26th August 2017: