Fertile But Fallow

Remember in school when you learned about “The Fertile Crescent?” You know: the cradle of modern agriculture, when humankind stopped hunting and gathering and started planting and harvesting over 10,000 years ago? Well, most of the area they were talking about is located in present-day Iraq. A Muslim nation. And in light of the current anger and venom being hurled around in this country over the idea of an Islamic community center located two full city blocks away from Ground Zero (and I mean on BOTH sides of this argument), I ask you to put whatever views you have aside and listen to what is currently happening in an Islamic country that has been exhausted and ravaged by war- a war we were involved in (no matter if you think it was necessary or not).

The Fertile Crescent may be fertile- but it is not being farmed. As I listened to filmmaker Emma Piper-Burket speak on NPR’s food program, The Splendid Table last night, I learned that in the area where wheat originated (a staple crop for us Americans), people are forced to import the majority of their food. War has displaced farmers, broken the cycle of parents teaching children…and there are few farmers left. There is also the tale of Iraq’s precious seed bank (where seeds of the original strains of crops such as wheat, onions, and chickpeas were housed) being destroyed; some of the last precious seeds were shipped to Turkey or were hidden by a concerned laywoman who wrapped and buried them secretly in her yard.

Piper-Burket’s collection of 5 short films, The Iraqi Seed Project, explores the past, present, and precarious future of the Fertile Crescent, and seeks to give a voice to its farmers as foreign aid, reconstruction, and investment come to Iraq.

Again, no matter what your political views are, most of us can connect globally in the realization that food is a basic human need- and the history of Fertile Crescent is a part of the past that belongs the whole human race. Instead of watching the “Us Vs. Them” contests on CNN that seem to get ratings, you might want to check this out and learn about something that, in many ways, feeds us all.



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