1. Converting to Flourishing: Eco-halal and Eco-Buddhist Farming in Conversation

Tasting Religion - Aldea Mulhern

Sarah Robinson-Bertoni [+-]
Pacific Lutheran University and Santa Clara University
Sarah E. Robinson, also known as Robinson-Bertoni, is a highly regarded critical-constructive scholar whose research focuses on the intersection of religion, environment, and social justice. As a Professor at Pacific Lutheran University and Santa Clara University, she teaches courses in environment, social justice, women's and gender studies, and religion. Her teaching is supported by her extensive research in Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim communities. Robinson has a rich academic background, having completed a BA in American Studies with a minor in Conservation and Resource Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1999. She has also earned an MA in History from the Graduate Theological Union in 2005, and a PhD in Religion from Claremont Graduate University in 2015, where she utilized comparative religious ethics and qualitative research methods to investigate sustainable agriculture projects in religious contexts. Robinson has been active in various professional organizations, including the American Academy of Religion, where she serves on the Steering Committee for the Religion and Food unit. She has also held leadership positions in the American Academy of Religion, Western Region, as conference manager, Women's Caucus liaison to the Board, and Regional Student Director to the national-level Student Committee. Additionally, she has served as unit chair for Ecology and Religion, Graduate Student Professional Development, and Women and Religion. Robinson's research has been widely published in notable academic publications, such as the Springer Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics, Columbia University Press' Religion, Food, and Eating in North America, and Oxford University Press' Flourishing: Comparative Religious Environmental Ethics. Her 2021 co-edited book, Valuing Lives, Healing Earth: Religion, Gender, and Life on Earth, offers a collection of narratives from women around the world who are striving for community health and religious integrity in justice-seeking ways. Robinson's teaching and scholarship are centered on lived religion, religion and food, comparative religious ethics, women's studies in religion, and ecology and religion.

Description

Recognizing the need for sustainability—a cyclical notion of continual replenishment of natural systems, including human communities, toward mutual flourishing—can be described as a conversion experience, renewing ethical and practical commitments. Converts to agricultural sustainability often recover the notion of inherent value in the beasts, birds, bees, flowers, and food plants, a range of beings morally sublimated in industrial systems where monetary value dominates the agricultural landscape. The author’s U.S.-based case studies display Muslim and Buddhist sustainable agricultural practices highlighting ethically integrated relationships of care, offering a social, economic, and environmental alternative to exploitative industrial agriculture. In Chicago, Taqwa Eco-food Cooperative (2002-2009) provided locally and sustainably produced halal meat, permissible for Muslims. Taqwa leaders educated on integrating ethics with food practice, emphasizing tayyib, or wholesomeness. Taqwa combined ethical reflection with practice improving the health of consumers, lives of animals, livelihoods of farmers, as well as the Muslim prayerful tradition of slaughter, not undertaken lightly. Green Gulch Farm is a part of the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC), which was founded in 1962. Managers and apprentices cultivate several acres facing the Pacific Ocean, producing vegetables for farmer’s markets, local restaurants, and for the SFZC community. In interviews, leaders reflected on sustainable farming and the Buddhist concept of dependent co-arising, dynamic interdependence. Each case study represents a unique context in time, place, and social location, which affords both a strong critique of industrial agriculture and a local-scale alternative designed for mutual flourishing. The case studies demonstrate sustainable, local, religiously oriented projects, producing viable alternatives for food production and distribution. The religious notions of dependent co-arising and tayyib socially support sustainable conversions to concretely care for people, land, water, agricultural ecosystems, and other-than-human living beings eaten as food.

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Citation

Robinson-Bertoni, Sarah. 1. Converting to Flourishing: Eco-halal and Eco-Buddhist Farming in Conversation. Tasting Religion. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Feb 2026. ISBN 9781000000000. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=44084. Date accessed: 22 Jun 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.44084. Feb 2026

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