How does agriculture fit into the future we’re trying to build? For Roy, agriculture holds the key to solving many of the world’s major problems.
In this episode of “Moments of Meaning,” Sean Hinton speaks to Roy Steiner. Roy was born in Germany, grew up in Canada, and now heads the global food and agriculture program at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York, USA. His love for agriculture started at a young age, when he started a backyard garden on his own, “growing copious amounts of vegetables.”
“I ended up working on farms all through my high school days,” Roy says. “And loving it!” When his mother saw this passion for farming taking shape in her son, she encouraged him to read the following passage written by Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith, so that he understood the profound importance of agriculture:
The utterances set forth therein by the Pen of the Lord of creation include the following which constitute the fundamental principles for the administration of the affairs of men… special regard must be paid to agriculture.
This is not the only place in the Baha’i Writings where agriculture and farming are given such prominence. Elsewhere, it is referred to as the fundamental basis of community; the economic condition of farmers is described as crucial to establishing a fair economic system, and the importance of women playing an equal role in the field of agricultural science is highlighted.
When Roy first read the passage, he says, he “certainly didn’t understand how profound a statement It was about reconstruction, rebuilding, that’s needed in a world that has really gone out of balance ecologically.” But his understanding of this quote guided his career choices in the years that followed, leading him to mechanical engineering and biology, which he found to be the ideal combination of skills he wanted.
“It’s such an amazing thing that agriculture, which is really not emphasised or given priority in almost any society right now, is really pointed out as being primary,” Roy says. “When you think about farming and agriculture, it’s something that most people want to escape, it’s connected with poverty and drudgery… And that shouldn’t be the case.”
He points out that we won’t be able to fully solve the major problems in the world without a profound transformation of the agricultural system. In this episode, he discusses the future of agriculture and how it can bring key breakthroughs to humanity’s way of life: advancements in medicine, moving away from ultra-processing to a more balanced diet, and using agricultural technologies to bring farming into increasingly urban societies, as well as reverse much of the damage done by climate change.
Roy says, “There’s something about being connected to that creative life force: the miracle — a plant — emerging out of nothingness, almost, and creating something delicious, nourishing and beautiful.”
“Moments of Meaning” is a podcast where Sean Hinton speaks to people from all walks of life whose lives have been profoundly affected by the writings of the Baha’i Faith. They share the quotes that inspired them and delve into the story of that moment of meaning and the powerful changes it caused.
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