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The college’s first crew of four-legged lawnmowers in 2015, shown with Farm Manager Kat Christen and then-student and Farm Assistant Alli King. (YS News file photo)

The college’s first crew of four-legged lawnmowers in 2015, shown with Farm Manager Kat Christen and then-student and Farm Assistant Alli King. (YS News file photo)

EDITORIAL — Contemplating farm to table

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Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by light.
But since you must kill to eat, and rob the newly born of its mother’s milk to quench your thirst, let it then be an act of worship. — Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

Antioch College’s farm was controversial from the start. The same with its solar panels. It shouldn’t have surprised anyone that a college with a tradition of balancing theory with practice would take institutional actions that dovetail with concepts learned in the classroom. Responding to the planetary challenges of our time, Antioch took courageous steps to “walk its talk.” It wasn’t too far ahead of its time, it was right on time. Yet both projects received community pushback.

It’s OK to critique our institutions. It’s how we improve. But when good faith efforts to nudge our neighbors turns into relentless haranguing — or even harassing — it’s time to back off, take a breath, and re-assess. This is the case with regards to the latest challenge to the Antioch farm: a months-long campaign to not kill for food the lambs currently grazing under the solar panels.

Because the kind of moral absolutism driving such a campaign is myopic, it would help to take a step back to look at the bigger picture. Context is everything, and an honest look at Antioch’s place in the global food system would highlight its differences from the inhumane factory farms truly driving climate change, the pollution of our waters and depletion of our soils.

Another context is time. Those farming and sourcing food at Antioch (and elsewhere) are already up against a lot these days: Regulations pushed by powerful agri-business that have decimated local farms, food processing facilities and distribution networks; eaters who have, for generations, become accustomed to meat-heavy, processed-food diets while sheilded from the negative impacts of their food choices. The footholds we have in a greener, more caring world are tenuous. How much longer before the small, humble farmers keeping traditional ways of raising animals give up?

In college, I took a Sustainable Agriculture class. Unfortunately, leaders at Miami University did not have the vision to have a working farm on campus (or locally sourced food options in its dining halls for that matter). Instead we spent time with an area farm family. I visited with, and interviewed, a family of Miami Indian heritage who grew vegetables, made soap and raised chickens and rabbits for meat on a small homestead in the country. On a morning that spring, I helped slaughter and butcher the chickens. Ritual preparations were made. Gratitude was offered. The eldest son, at the time a teenager, led the process and was solemn, efficient and reverent.

After a lifetime of eating meat, it was the first time I participated in, or even saw, how it was done. The experience was life-changing. First, it gave me a valuable understanding of a cultural context for farming, in this case how growing food and raising animals, for an indigenous family, could be tied to self-sufficiency, sovereignty and resistance to oppression. Feeding themselves from land stolen from their ancestors was an act rooted in a tradition and accomplishing a reclamation that was, quite frankly, beyond my grasp. On what grounds could I judge their ways of living and eating?

Second, after a sanitized suburban upbringing, I finally had to confront my discomfort with killing to eat. I faced the truth that something must die for me to live, whether plant or animal, and realized the importance of ensuring it is done as compassionately as possible. Just as I did, Antioch students who see where their food comes from — and witness the sacrifices made to bring it to their plate — will likely have a deeper understanding and appreciation for it. And on this planet, in these times, respect and gratitude go a long way.

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7 Responses to “EDITORIAL — Contemplating farm to table”

  1. mike spurlino says:

    The question is actually quite simple. Do you think it is OK to kill an animal so that you can eat it ?

    It is not about your health, the environment, or how you kill the animal.

    Is it OK to kill an animal when you don’t have to, when you do it because you like the way it tastes ?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Please save the lambs

  3. Cinci Vegan says:

    The gibberish that people come up with to justify slaughtering animals never ceases to amaze me.
    Do we not already have enough cruelty in this world?
    When it has been documented that we can thrive on a vegan lifestyle, all the rest is just wanton cruelty!

  4. Laura Orebaugh says:

    I have frequented Yellow Springs for the past 30+ years due to the fact that I am able to easily access vegan/vegetarian food and for the fact that I thought that Antioch College encouraged it student’s alternative lifestyles. It’s a new day. Many people of ALL ages are choosing a plant-based diet; for many different reasons. I am very disappointed in Antioch College. If you want to know how animals are raised, then butchered and end up on someone’s plate – there are many other resources available in this farming state. I wouldn’t think that many of the students that go to the bother to apply and get accepted… into this alternative college…. in this mostly conservative, meat-eating, bible belt state; are going to be interested in raising farm animals and then watching then get butchered….Go to a county fair – or sign up for 4-H. Thank God for the people that have started the Petition on – Save the Antioch Lambs! Blessed Be Dear Ones.

  5. Dan Ayres says:

    I studied Sociology and Anthropology at Antioch in the first half od the 1960’s. My maternal grandfather was a founding member of the faculty at Park College (now Park University) in MO. He corresponded with Arthur Morgan and wrote a book about Park College. They, like the Antioch of Horace Mann in the early days, provided opportunity to students to “work on the college farm” as a requirement for participation in their educational communities. This is not a new idea, but a “return to basics” that is desperately needed in this era of human isolation from the land that sustains us all!

  6. Kay Slone says:

    Thank you Megan for your pointed and susinct editorial. I couldn’t agree more

  7. Laura Orebaugh says:

    But we do not have to kill animals to eat.

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