I did not grow up in a farming family. I didn’t even grow up in a family with deep food traditions – unless you count the Vienna sausages my grandmother would feed us when we would visit or the stashes of snickerdoodles and pound cakes in her freezer, though I still really love snickerdoodles. And I would be negligent not to mention my mom’s chocolate chip cookies. She makes the best. So, maybe a few sweet traditions. But my journey to farming has been one that evolved slowly, and primarily through my journey of faith.
After college, I moved to Atlanta to enter seminary at Candler School of Theology. I studied to become a pastor and ended up falling in love with hospital chaplaincy, where I worked for some years after graduating. My faith has always found its deepest resonance around the Table. The communion table, certainly, but also any time folks are gathered around the table to share in a meal together. Around the table, we encounter God in one another. Like the disciples encountering Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Jesus is made known to us in the breaking of the bread.
Eventually, this connection to the table led me to caring about the quality of food I served to my friends and family. I became a better cook and I began to source better ingredients. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver opened my eyes to the world of local food and the joy of growing one’s own food. A small garden in my backyard, led to dreams of chickens – the gateway drug of homesteading. A turkey butchering class and the preparation of that bird for our Thanksgiving table changed this long time vegetarian into an advocate for local, humanely raised meats.
Though I loved chaplaincy, it wasn’t long before the windowless corridors of the hospital began to feel constricting. My mind wandered to visions of watching my longed-for herd of livestock move across the pasture. My hands ached to be digging in the soil. My internet search history revealed pages and pages of rural real estate listings. Eventually Bones joined me in this dreaming and a vision of a different life began to take shape. More about how we landed in Virginia in the next post.
I like to joke now that I am still in ministry, but all my parishioners have four legs or wings. In truth, my sense of calling to this work of sustainable agriculture is every bit as strong as my calling to ministry and the two are very much entwined. Caring for God’s creation was among the very first commands God gave to God’s people. My hope is for this farm to be a expression of my faith and my commitment to caring for this land and my community through sustainable farming practices, humane livestock husbandry, and the provision of quality, local food for my community.
“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” -Chinese proverb