“Native Americans believe that plants and all living beings are our allies and helpers if we learn to listen to their medicine.
…Thus good intentions and spirit go into the production of food, material and handiwork on which the tribe depends. This good spirit is passed on from the maker to the end-user when the product is used or consumed resulting in good health and a good hunt, or harvest.” Sun Butler
Meet Sun Butler, one of our wonderfully reliable purveyors of fresh, organic “Community Greens.” He is part of an informal network of small urban farmers whose goal is to get Nature’s harvest to consumers in 24 hours or less—talk about fresh!
Albert “Sun” Butler has quite a history. He is from generations of tobacco farmers, is the owner and co-founder of Organic Smoke Inc., makers of Kentucky Select Organic Pipe and RYO Tobaccos. He knows tobacco chemistry, flavor and blending, and about field production of tobacco and vegetables. Lots of American Spirit tobacco fans cross our store threshold, and this is the man you pure tobacco appreciators want to know about! Sun Butler developed the first commercial certified organic tobacco program with Santa Fe Natural Tobacco for American Spirit Organic RYO and cigarettes. He also designed the first certified organic Burley tobacco toasting process and organic casing blends.(Read about organic tobacco, pesticides in conventional tobacco and the ceremonial and respectful use of tobacco on his blog.)
Sun was the Director of Agricultural Programs for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle Farm and Garden program in Raleigh NC – two teaching farms and 6 community garden programs serving food-challenged communities in the Central Piedmont. (https://www.foodshuttle.org/program/farms)
My father’s family grew tobacco and soybeans for cash crops in Southern Virginia. Theirs was a small farm, and I remember my father telling us stories about picking the suckers from the plants, the heat in the curing barn when they stayed up all night to keep the temperature as high as it needed to be for the leaves to cure. My father never used tobacco, but he understood the chop-wood-carry-water concept of the hard work and satisfaction of growing and harvesting crops as seasons changed. And he understood that the “cash crop” meant taking the best care they could of the crop to preserve its value at Market.
When I read some of Sun Butler’s blog posts, I thought again of my father and his farming memories. As guests and consumers, we are being reintroduced, directly, to farmers not just at the farms and farmers’ markets, but, here, through the Store, where they share their bounty after laboring in the fields in all kinds of weather (the cycles of beginnings and endings.) I am grateful for them and what they offer every day not only to our taste buds and health, but to our thinking about the value of what we create, what we consume, and how we live. Here are two excerpts from Sun Butler’s blog:
“In the current mass-produced on-demand culture of instant gratification it is difficult to imagine the value of something based upon the hours of labor required of us to produce it. The spiritual observance of “offering up” that which is precious to us has been relegated to the cultural dust-bin of ‘myth and superstition’. So what is it about the tobacco plant that gives it such spiritual significance among Native American peoples? What’s more, are there lessons here for today’s society, addicted not only to nicotine and other drugs, but to excess in every form?”
“Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water
After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water” – Wu Li, Chinese Zen Master
“Author Rick Fields in his seminal book ‘Chop Wood, Carry Water’– I tried to introduce Western readers to the ancient Chinese Zen (and Native American) idea that the performance of simple daily tasks can be a form of relaxing meditation. While we enjoy the benefits of technology, our increasing alienation from the natural world has made it more difficult to maintain a spiritual outlook in our day-to-day. One solution is to go about the simplest and most mundane tasks, especially obtaining and cooking food, using water and fire and maintaining our shelter with prayerful intention. By finding joy and thankful meditation in simple pleasures and even difficult tasks, we open the door on a world of perception where our half-filled glasses may be over-flowed with satisfaction and understanding!”