August 27, 2012
Food Awareness Month at Green Gulch Farm

With the support of the Green Dragon Temple community, the Ecosattvas – the ecological awareness group at Green Gulch – host the third annual Food Awareness Month this September, offering celebratory events that honor the food that nourishes us and the labors that make it possible, bringing mindful attention to food scarcity around the world and the conditions that contribute to it.

Photo by Brigitte Bouillot

Our celebration will begin with the Sunday Dharma talk by Tenshin Reb Anderson on September 2. Other speakers in September – Wendy Johnson on Wednesday, September 5, Robert Thomas on Sunday, September 9, and Abbess Ejun Linda Cutts on Sunday, September 16 – will incorporate the theme into their talks.

A Food Awareness Month meal verse was written by Green Gulch Farm Abiding Abbess Eijun Linda Cutts:

Innumerable labors brought us this food.
A gift from Earth, Sea, Sky and countless living beings.
May we practice awareness, filled with gratitude
And appreciate what we have before us.
Eating together in peace we create conditions for peace.
As this food supports our life
May we support and serve the world in joy.

Photo by Sara Tashker

Two special Friday dinners, September  14 and 21, will be open to guests. We will begin with the Food Awareness Month meal verse. Both residents and guests are encouraged to come dressed up for the appreciative celebration of a fine meal and to arrive promptly for the opening of the meal at 6:00pm. At each of these dinners there will be a 5-minute food awareness talk around 6:30. Please make your reservation through Eventbrite to let us know that you plan to attend. An $8-$10 donation is requested.

During September we will have our annual great potato dig and the annual apple tasting, special movie nights with food relevant films, and a harvest dinner and square dance in which the farm and garden crew will take over the kitchen and prepare a spectacular meal made primarily of GGF-grown fruits, herbs, and vegetables. We wish to take the month of September to examine with wide eyes, and appreciate with a full heart, food in all its miraculous glory.

Photo by Brigitte Bouillot

At Green Gulch, meal times are a central aspect of communal life. In the morning, after leaving the zendo (meditation hall) and completing our morning temple-cleaning chores, we gather in the dining area for breakfast and join in reciting this meal verse:

We reflect on the effort that brought us this food and consider how it comes to us.
We reflect on our virtue and practice and whether we are worthy of this offering.
We regard it as essential to keep the mind free from excesses such as greed.
We regard this food as good medicine to sustain our life.
For the sake of enlightenment we now receive this food.
First, this is for the three treasures.
Next, for the four benefactors.
Finally, for the beings in the six realms.
May all be equally nourished.
The first portion is to end all evil.
The second is to cultivate all good.
The third is to free all beings.
May we all realize the Buddha way.

We invite you to join us in this ritual of food awareness by creating or finding your own version and taking a moment once a day to express gratitude for the nourishment you receive in a way that responds to your daily context and expresses your commitment.

By marking September as a period of exceptional focus upon the gift of good land and the abundant fruits thereof, we have the opportunity to recommit ourselves to seeing the big picture of food. Among the topics that are generally in the air during the month are deepening investigations into national and local agricultural policy, food miles, the use of petro-chemicals, and the disparity in access to healthy food. Questions that arise are

  • What makes for a sustainable food-shed?
  • Why does Green Gulch sell produce to others instead of eating it all ourselves?
  • When having to choose between locally produced goods and organic ones from farther away, which makes more sense environmentally?
  • How can we cooperate with Urban Farming initiatives and support them?

Photo by Brigitte Bouillot

This year we have committed to support the campaign of Yes on Proposition 37, the ballot initiative that would require labels for most genetically modified foods in California. The spectrum of relationships to food is wide, leading us to ponder and underscore Soto Zen founder Dogen Zenji’s injunction to treat each grain of rice as if it were our own eyes.

One of the creative offerings of last year’s Food Awareness Month was an invitation to write 50 Words about Food. We’ve found this exercise a compellingly difficult/easy project and would like to invite the whole sangha to participate and email your 50 words about food to the Ecosattvas via email. Shrink something down to its essence without getting caught in a lot of wrapping paper language – just the essence, please! What follows are some of the offerings of 2011. May you enjoy the bounty of autumn! Send to

50 Words About Food: A Sampler

Vegetables Beets like blood. Lettuce inverted stars & that wind plays music through sunlit trees. Scallions, Potatoes, fog & mist & downpour. Universe in a microbial universe chomping the wheel of life. Topsoil, Forest, Asparagus, Sweetpeas, Strawberry-nuts. Kale, Chard, Cilantro, Green Bean Intimate self is all that I see. *** First Impression Green Gulch, Green Valley. A journey of one hundred days. The wait, the anticipation. A ride through mist and fog to clear the mind. Sit, work , walk all the same in meditation. Special gardens, special residents. A symphony of melodic service. Green Gulch, Green Valley. An abundant harvest. *** Can we even write an ode to something that disappears in the space of a smile, a series of breaths? Pans of grains meet the resistance of tender flesh. Sensory feast rests in cavernous oven of our jaws, like a budding cavity to chew and chew and chew again begin. *** Zendo Wishing for perfection. I’ll never have. Posture. Breath. Thought. Heart. I dance and laugh through zazen. Back to breath. Back to sigh. What is the fear that abides in me? My three catastrophes lie still. Together in the snow coffin, they wait for spring. Is perfection my path to safety? *** The stomach undoes time as life needs food & no time later you are there on the edge hoping the soil will yield & the clouds rain & dream the meat from the landscape & now it’s hunger time again. Where will the next food come from? as I hunger. *** Rapid Eye Movement Munchies 50 words about food. In it I say something lovely. Or ugly. In colonial dialect. A funny word play like cucumber & ukulele. Or an ode in brogue or a mule farmer song. I could say I woke to my father like acorn squash, mom in a housecoat of kale.