Bethany Edwardson kneels on the front porch of her bright yellow farmhouse painting old windows into chalkboards. The sun shines bright across the fields and barns behind us. She moved to Plainsong six years ago with her husband Mike and daughter Everest, bringing with them their passion for land and food equity, “We started a life and brought dreams with us.”
It all started in college when she read Wendell Berry, and came to a double realization that, “Eating together is powerful and what you eat is powerful as well.” As she learned more about the chain of harm around food production, she became more committed to building a lifestyle around care for the earth. And when she wanted that for herself, she wanted it for others.
Food inherently connects us to the land and that awareness connects us to each other because we all eat. As Bethany explains, “Food is a very physical, tangible, simple representation of larger ways to connect to the earth.” But food also connects us to God. “I see God as Creator and Lifegiver,” Bethany hopes to honor these connections through direct attention to the earth and how reliant we are on it. Ultimately, Bethany views farming and food as a connection point, “Humans need to care for the earth that cares for them and food is an access point to simplify the conversation of all the things we can do.”
In developing this awareness, she realized that many people may not be in a position of access to well grown food whether because of a lack of knowledge, location, or finances. And Bethany found growing food life-giving. So when Nurya Parish, founder of Plainsong Farm connected with them about joining the organization, Mike and Bethany jumped at the chance. Coming in at the ground floor, they were able to build the farm with Nurya, bringing in their own dreams and concept as partners, “We were able to live into the vision not just as employees. It was embodied for me.”
As the farm grew, Bethany turned her focus toward the space itself. People say the farm got its aesthetic from her love of “welcoming, beautiful, and restful places.” In her own home she values hospitality, openness and non-judgment, and in turn infuses those principles into Plainsong. “This whole place is my home,” she gestures to the twelve acres surrounding us, “I find nourishment and rest in nature, and I want to offer that as a gift to others.”
To Bethany, Plainsong’s most important work involves providing space for visitors to reconnect with God and life. “Offering the opportunity to reconnect to land in new, refreshing, inviting ways is what Plainsong does well.” That connection is executed through silence, intentionality, and awareness. She hopes to see this place “formulated to reach across, the primal connection of humans to earth, resonant with light, beauty, and goodness.” In the beauty of silence, intentionality, and awareness, she sees God in the land. No matter visitors’ beliefs, Bethany believes that we can all find grounding, connection and peace in nature. And for the healing of the world she hopes we “find common ground in values through the common ground beneath our feet.”
Toward this healing of connection to community and the land, one of Bethany’s favorite parts of living at Plainsong is the constant cycling through of visitors and fellows, “Having new people live here breathes new life every time someone comes to share space.” Her daughters Everest and Magnolia have grown up with strangers in their backyard as each year new fellows cycle through the brown community house, but to Bethany sharing space is something that has to happen intentionally in a fragmented world and “It’s more interesting and fun with people to share life with.”
It isn’t easy intentionally living into the brokenness of the world, trying to care for it as best you can. For Bethany, sometimes simply living into her values becomes burdensome because it feels like she isn’t doing enough, “I get overwhelmed by the sheer number of broken things...and that makes it harder to do the things.” But alongside this weight, Bethany’s relationship with God reminds her that there is grace in trying, in doing just what she can do.
As she pushes through the challenges, Bethany finds joy in the abundance and access of living on a farm, “I can walk out and harvest everything I need for dinner in the freshest way possible. I’m tempted to not wash [the product] because the worst thing on it is dirt and bug poop!” One of Bethany’s most rewarding experiences is coming in from the fields arms full of ten different kinds of vegetables, “It’s overwhelming.” When you’ve invested your life and “literal personal sweat” into the harvest, it becomes even more meaningful, “That direct connection is full of wonder.”
And so she continues on, faithful to the growing of a home, “Any small good is enough.”