Craig Goodwin's year off

May 26, 2011

Where I live at 10,200 feet, the
trees have not yet budded. May is still early, early spring in Leadville,
Colorado, but all around me is a sudden burst of gardening. For months, people
have been filling their homes with starter plants; now they're calling around
to see who has space for more in the few small greenhouses. There have been
several meetings discussing large-scale community gardens, and now there is
more than one plan in place.

All this is truly a renaissance
for a town where piles of mining slag are referred to as "heritage"--and where
gardening is truly hard work, with only about 30 frost-free days per year.

Leadville is riding a cultural
wave of local food production and just beginning to model efforts like those of
the "Garden City" of Missoula, Montana. We're a decade behind the curve--but
being ahead or behind may not be the most significant matter. I recently read A Year of Plenty, by Presbyterian
minister Craig Goodwin, who details his family's attempt to take a year off
from a consumer-driven life.

Goodwin's odyssey into local food
began with a post-holiday argument with his wife about who was more to blame
for their rushed, packed and altogether disappointing Christmas. They decided
to try an experiment. They didn't know at the time that they were following the
lead of Barbara Kingsolver's family or such famous bloggers as "No Impact Man."
They were self-described suburban Christians who were just trying to get their
heads above the cultural water.

Goodwin and his wife set four
rules for the upcoming year regarding their shopping: they could only buy
things that were used, local, handmade or from Thailand. That last rule is a
weird one: it came from the fact that Goodwin's wife had spent time in
Thailand, and they were uncomfortable with a model of consumption that cut them
off completely from the global economy.

Goodwin writes with humor and
insight. In one of my favorite passages, he takes the reader step by step
through the connection between American Christianity and consumer culture. His
discussion is personal and unassuming but also incisively critical and deeply
theological. While I've felt this connection many times, I've never seen it
laid out quite so clearly.

Goodwin continues to blog at Year of Plenty. His book is worth a
read--not so much because he is an original thinker about matters of local food
and local economies, but because he is an insightful and humorous writer who
wants to reach "recovering conventional Christians" like himself.