The Soul Of Agriculture Conference Descriptive Summary | 1997

November 14-16, 1997, Minneapolis, Minnesota

This national conference is sponsored by the Center for Respect for Life and Environment. It is an activity of the Soul of Agriculture Project, a two-year effort established by the Center in late 1995 to develop a new agriculture production ethic and to mobilize broad public support for its adoption.

This effort was inspired by “The Spirit of the Soil: Agriculture and Environmental Ethics,” a book by Paul B. Thompson, Professor of Applied Ethics in the Department of Philosophy at Purdue University. The book examines environmental problems in industrial agriculture and challenges environmentalists to think more deeply and creatively about the ethical dimensions of agriculture’s impact on the environment.

The conference is a national public response to Thompson’s call for “an ethic of farming, a philosophy of agriculture, which particular attention to agriculture’s impact upon and integration with the wider natural world . . .a philosophy needed as much by those who eat as by those who farm . . . nearly gone is the spirit of raising food and eating it as an act of communion with some larger whole.”

Fred Kirschenmann, Medina, N.D., farmer and sustainable agriculture leader, proposed the production ethics project and chairs the conference planning committee. Thompson and Kirschenmann were among more than 20 environmentalists, farmers, faith community networkers, ethicists, and others brought together last March to draft a vision statement/call to action document. The draft, now available for public review and comment, calls for development and implementation of a new production ethic. This document will be refined in conference breakout sessions and published early next year.

The Center for Respect for Life and Environment, established in 1986 in response to the growing environmental crisis, sponsors economic and social development programs that recognize the links between ecology, spirituality, and sustainability.