There are so many reasons we came north to farm. Actually, not long before we made the move we thought we were to be missionaries in Cambodia, working alongside church planters to help others care for creation rather than continue the careless exploitation of the land that many have adopted. Why in the world are we here in rural Minnesota?
Well, maybe we needed to make the agricultural mistakes here first and learn a lot ourselves still. Maybe our boys will take over and we’ll still head out, maybe not. We have continually learned that we cannot determine our future in many aspects. Sickness happens, poverty happens, and good things happen too. We do know that we are to be faithful wherever God has us and in many ways we are doing exactly what we would be doing in Cambodia, but here among the rural people of Minnesota.
As we lived in the city we had worked with many over the years that had little knowledge of how to work and where food came from, so we started Gardens of Praise, an urban agricultural development project that strives to go beyond reconnecting urban people with nature to reconnecting them with their Creator and to bring the knowledge of how to produce their own food into the city through holistic farming experiences.
As that moved forward, we also sought to be part of a farm school project here on our farm. However, the community was quite against it since we failed to accurately portray who we were bringing to the farm. They thought inner city youth = thugs, druggies, etc. None of the youth we were thinking of were involved with drugs or had been in trouble with the law. Yes, their parents had, but these youth were trying to get out of the cycle.
As that was shot down, we still had the desire to bring young men and women that had been discipled in Christ, but were still in a hard spot, up to the farm to continue to be discipled and learn the value of work and where our food comes from. What about inviting mentors and youth up to a working farm to share a weekend working together, furthering relationship, and learning the amazing intricacies of how God has ordered this world? What about internships to teach young men and women the value of working as unto the Lord even when the work is tough and smelly? What about retreats where people can just get out of the city and find joy in God’s creation and those they retreat with?
Others came alongside us and pushed us this way. And now we’re here working out what it means to glorify God in farming day to day. We started with savings and the conviction to stay debt free. Mat’s family already had the land and some equipment that was necessary. Our objective was to become profitable within five years in order that we could then focus on our other goals of internships. We do have people up for retreats and such, but hope that with an established farm we would have more time and resources to devote to such things, such as building a larger housing area for groups or being able to spend more time teaching. Though we knew it would be a lot of work, I was surprised at the constant need to always be working. Our animals needed to be fed and cared for or they would not survive. Problems and equipment needed to be fixed or something would die, etc. We also had young children, so having people come actually set us back for the first few years. Also, with the constant work, it became a high stress job. A stressed out host isn’t much fun to be around.
Our story isn’t over, but we’ve come a long way in this farming endeavor. March 2017 will mark our fourth year on the farm. We started in March 2013. We have been so happy to host those interested in farming and to share what we can with them and our immediate community. Mathew is an amazing resource to myself, others and the church. What God has done through him here in Northern Minnesota has been a joy to see. Endurance is not always easy, but the fruit of endurance is so satisfying. Our practices are improving, our product has definitely become quality, and we’ve learned so much from our previous mistakes. Slowly we move forward.
So what am I getting at by telling you our story? Well, when you buy anything, you are supporting the farmers and producers and the practices of production behind that product. In buying our food you are supporting what we are trying to do here on the farm. We are in the business of practicing careful dominion over creation – land, animals, and people. Consider purchasing a portion of your meat supply from us this year.
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