Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Faith-based farming

Please, please, read "Of Church and Steak: Farming for the Soul," by Joan Nathan of the NYT. It's a wonderful article about the resurgence of faith-based farming and environmental practices. Reasoning that God made the earth and gave us dominion over it, this new breed of farmer sees his vocation as exercising proper stewardship over the creation.

Caring for the land, caring for animals, caring for our workers - proper farming is serious business. From the article:

"For many who farm according to religious principles, the treatment of animals is a great concern. Catherine and Myron Horst of Dickerson, Md., wrote about the problem on their Bible study Web site,, in an article called “Farming Based on the Word of the God.”

“The secular corporate business world and the state universities have dismissed God from the farming picture,” they wrote. The Horsts wanted to alter that picture when they took over a 38-acre farm seven years ago.

“We asked the Lord what we were to do with the farm,” said Mr. Horst, a born-again Christian.

So he and his wife put their chickens out to pasture during the day, gather the eggs by hand, and move them back to shelters at night. It is far more work then keeping them cooped up or caged, but for the Horsts the Bible’s promise of dominion “over every living thing” entails responsibilities as well as rights.

Faith-based farming can also mean taking responsibility for the hired hands. Roy Brubaker, a Mennonite who grows strawberries, blueberries and vegetables on his 20-acre farm near Mifflintown, Pa., said: “My faith tells me that workers should be fairly paid. I have never paid the minimum wage. That is not the biblical standard for a living wage.”

Joel Salatin, who is considered a guru of organic agriculture, said he has seen a change in the people who visit his Polyface farm in Virginia.

“Ten years ago most of my farm visitors were earth muffin tree-hugger nirvana cosmic worshipers,” Mr. Salatin said. “And now 80 percent of them are Christian home schoolers.”"


funke said...

I think even urban dwellers can exercise that relationship with nature with some creative indoor gardening or the care of a pet. As a former 4-H'er, though, I can say that birthing lambs, gathering eggs, and the ever-so-pleasant activity of mucking stalls is a particularly unique experience that I am so thankful my parents were able to provide.

The writer of this article makes it sound as though the Horsts are out in the field gathering eggs. Our hens free-ranged during the day, but always laid their eggs in the coop, which we left open for that purpose (they are a bit habitual).

Lynne said...

This is something I'm interested in because Americans have lost contact with their food. They make no connections between the shrink-wrapped chicken in the grocery store and an animal - some children who visit my home have never seen vegetables growing before!

It makes me sad that people eat everything but real food.