In June of 2017, I was in Washington, D.C. for a family-related trip. The focus wasn't on work, but I did get in one conference call. It was held at Creation Justice Ministries, and it turned out to be important.
Shantha Alonso Ready (the director at Creation Justice Ministries) and I got on the phone with Steve Schwartz of the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative in California and Andrew Kang Bartlett of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. As the four of us discussed issues we saw at the intersection of food, ecology and faith communities, one challenge came to the forefront:The country needs more young farmers and more sustainable agriculture. The greatest barrier for young farmers is access to land. These are widely known facts in the agriculture world.Churches have lots of land, some of which is suitable for sustainable agriculture. We also have a Bible that says humans are of one substance with the soil (Genesis 2:7). These are widely known facts in the world of western religious leaders.But there hasn't been overlap between the world of land access professionals and faith community leaders. There isn't a community of practice that helps the church reconnect with our Scriptural/agricultural roots and opens doors for partnerships with farmers. I know this because I know exactly how hard it was to start Plainsong Farm.As we talked about this challenge - which all four of us recognized as a major issue - Steve Schwartz suggested we bring in Severine vonTscharner Fleming to the conversation. The founder of Greenhorns and co-founder of multiple other organizations for young farmers, Severine was sure to have ideas for how to make progress at this intersection.June 2017 was almost nine months ago. Since then, a lot has happened:
We are now two weeks away from this gathering. I am praying it will be an important next step in stewarding greater health and vitality for all of God's good creation. I know it won't be perfect. It's not meant to be. It's one next step forward. Please pray it is a step in the direction of health for all.The toolkit that we are creating at Plainsong Farm will be available in draft version later this spring. It's meant to be a very basic introduction for church governing bodies to understand the issues and consider action. It will be a free resource.If your church/diocese/judicatory has property that might be suitable for sustainable agriculture, please sign up for our mailing list below. We'll keep you posted when the toolkit is publicly available.The day before the FaithLands gathering begins, I'll be attending and participating on a panel at the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative's annual conference in Marin City California. I'm looking forward to learning from how they do things out there! I know already they have stronger connections between congregations and sustainable farms than any I've yet seen in Michigan.Some say the winter season is slow in farming. I'll tell you for sure: it isn't slow in farm-based ministry.But that's a good thing. God planted us here to grow.