For centuries, philosophers have explored the nature of humanity’s appreciation for the world around us. They call this branch of thought aesthetics, from the Greek for “sense of perception.” They use words like beauty, picturesque and sublime to describe experiences that leave us awestruck.
Since the 1700s, philosophers have debated whether humans are part of nature or separate from it, whether natural and built environments can evoke the same kind of wonder as hearing a great piece of music, and whether everyday experiences like eating a perfectly ripe peach can elevate us to the same heights of emotion or awe as a great painting.
Because aesthetics is rooted in our perceptions – in using our senses – some philosophers say that experiencing specific environments like farmland or parkland, and having place-based experiences like eating asparagus weekly from April to June because it’s in season, are key to creating a shared cultural identity and shared appreciation for one’s “homeland.” These kinds of experiences can lead to tighter community bonds and a sense of responsibility to the land itself.
When the Industrial Revolution brought vast cultural changes to both urban and rural communities, our relationship with the natural world changed dramatically. Citizens responded by creating new movements in America to preserve natural wonders like Mt. Rainier for future generations, to build city parks like the John Finch Arboretum in Spokane that enable city dwellers to rejuvenate, and to educate children about the natural world through hands-on environmental education.
By the end of the 20th century, many of us firmly believed that cultural identity and pride-of-place are strengthened when we gain firsthand knowledge of agricultural lands, when we meet those who work these lands, when we see what is produced there, and when we value the food they produce.
Tilth Alliance has spent 40 years building connections in the Northwest that support gardeners and cooks through experiential education, and we’ve supported farmers from the moment they choose their profession until they’re ready to retire and sell their farms to the next generation. I’m so proud that through powerful philanthropic partnerships with individuals, governments and businesses across the state, the Tilth community has also extended its work in the same great American tradition that gave us Yellowstone Park by creating public spaces that feed the human spirit – and human bodies, too!
In just a few weeks, the Seattle park known as Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands will reopen. Soon, residents in one of Washington’s most disadvantaged communities will develop a renewed pride-of-place and a deeper appreciation for the land when they see, touch, smell and taste the bounty of the Pacific Northwest right in their own neighborhood. We believe that these experiences will inspire greater interest in caring for and about the people, animals and lands that feed us. I hope you’ll join us for opening festivities! More information will follow.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your experiences of our homeland: firstname.lastname@example.org.