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ICF Organic Farming Workshop

November 4, 2009

September 6 to 12, 2009
Galaha, Sri Lanka

Individual Reflection

In this workshop, I learned many practical skills to farm organically—composting, the importance of protecting the soil and plant diversity, the interrelationship between plants and animals on a farm, etc. I also came to see the important place of the lowly earthworm in sustaining life naturally.

Through composting, I gained a deeper appreciation for recycling. Moreover, when I see the value of recycling, I realize how wasteful our urban societies are today. On an organic farm, the death and decay of leaves and other organic material yields rich fertilizer that gives life. Theologically, we can literally say that life comes from death or, conversely, that death gives life. It is a natural process whose value to life I've come to understand more deeply as a result of this workshop.

I also gained a great appreciation of the health benefits of organic farming. The Green Revolution that began after World War II with its emphasis on chemicals to enhance agricultural production was viewed as progress at the time. Today, however, the Green Revolution could be renamed the Poison Revolution or the Toxic Revolution. We would have fewer concerns today about health care if we had not gone down this path.

From our visits to organic home gardens around Kandy, we saw how much could be grown on a small piece of land, including on slopes. We also saw that all of the farmers we visited were women, and usually not young women. I really appreciated all of their work and sweat over a long period of time and how they had to creatively plan their garden.

This workshop gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation as well of the interrelationships in life, in nature and in organic farming. We learned how important it is to plant crops of different plant families next to each other as a natural way to fight diseases and pests, that this is one way in which we as organic farmers can mimic nature. Through this process, we can see how different plants work together.

If we expand the importance of diversity to life, we see how important it is for each of us to be different, for our differences complement each other and make our societies stronger and healthier. It also underlines the wisdom of God in creating differences among plants and among people. If we were all the same, our societies would lack a lot of skills and wisdom.

Today our diversity is used by some people to divide us. Our human family is composed of people of different races, different ethnicities, and different religions. Based on the deeper understanding of diversity that I gained at this workshop, I've learned how important it is to embrace these differences instead of seeking to make the other's identity like mine. Moreover, we can come to understand and appreciate the mystery of God more deeply if we all learn from the insights and gifts of each other's faith. This is something I hope we can do as part of the ICF family.

Bruce Van Voorhis

(Bruce Van Voorhis works in Hong Kong for Interfaith Cooperation Forum [ICF], a regional network of young Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and indigenous activists working for justpeace at the grassroots level in South and Southeast Asia. ICF is a joint program of the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs [APAY] in Hong Kong where Bruce is based and the Christian Conference of Asia [CCA] located in Chiang Mai, Thailand.)

Bruce Van Voorhis serves as missionary with the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCA's in Hong Kong.  He serves as the Coordinator for Interfaith Programs.


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