Farming God’s Way – Publication by Farm Fresh Media
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Then he created day and night, sky, land, seas, seed bearing plants and trees, sun, moon, stars, birds and creatures of the sea, livestock and wild creatures, and then from the dust of the earth, a man, and from the man, a woman. And then he said I give you everything that has life in it and every green plant for food. And God saw all that God had made and said that it was very good.
And then God created a Garden in Eden. Everything in it was good to see and eat except one tree. Even though the fruit from that tree was lovely to look at and good to the taste, God said don’t eat from it, you will die.
But of course the man and woman did eat from it and life ever after became more complicated. There’s something in the story about the knowledge of good and evil and gaining wisdom and something about people becoming more like God. And then, because they ate, comes the curse; pain, enmity, thorns and thistles, sweat, and in the end, a return to dust. And then the man and his wife were driven out of the garden so they wouldn’t eat from that tree again and make things even worse.
Are We Still Eating the Forbidden Fruit?
And so, the thinking goes, the Garden of Eden is lost to us forever and we must go on in our quest to rule over all the earth and subdue it. Moses told us all about this in the book of the Bible named Genesis; the beginning. Of all the creatures and creation it is we humans who are most like God.
In each one of us reside the very same Adam and Eve attributes that led to the eating of the forbidden fruit. Throughout all of history we have done our utmost to get as far away from sweat, painful toil, weeds and thistles, and to gain as much “knowledge” as we possibly can. We have done our very best to discover all we can about the things in God’s creation hidden from human knowledge, and we have had some success. This success has in many ways taken us further away from sweat and pain, but in other ways may be setting us up for futures of sweat and pain we may only now suspect.
We have not heeded the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:28, where we are warned against trying to micro-manage the world around us:
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don’t toil, neither do they spin.”
Of course, the Bible also speaks quite a lot about greed, as in Luke 12:15:
“Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
But for some reason, we are often slow to recognize the greedy nature behind practices that sacrifice good health and good natural farming and food production, for monetary gain – the kinds of greed that propel huge companies to trademark the very seeds we sow, and create powerful sprays to eradicate nature’s attacks with force – to boost yield and profit, at the expense of realizing our place in the natural order.
What about the injunction of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes?
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted”
Do we not see in our year-round trucking of seasonal produce an arrogant disposal of this idea, that the natural seasons are our guide from God, those temperate seasons that have been our framework for living for so many centuries?
Some of the things we judge as “success”; atomic power, global warming from fossil fuel pollution, chemical farming, have brought us to the edge of disaster. Is the Garden of Eden forever lost to us?
To Love Thy Neighbor
There’s also something in aggressive, artificial, corporate farming practices that does not love a neighbor, that does not take the health and well-being of others into account.
We humans search constantly for perfection and it constantly eludes us. We say “nothing is perfect,” and on we go. But wait! What about that system of growing things that takes into account a humble and respectful approach to the land, trying to understand how best to partner with it rather than dominate it? To love it with God’s love. How is it that waste of all kinds; human, animal, food, crop residues, while dangerous when dumped and disposed of indiscriminately become a way to move toward perfection when applied to the land judiciously? What happens when we abandon this kind of partnership with our land and adopt an easy life, lazy approach to it?
Are we then “loving our neighbor as ourselves” or are we striving to build up treasure on earth, while overcovering the natural wonders God has given us?
Convenience and Sloth
One Amish farmer in the early stages of his farming career describes the practice of chemical/GMO farming as a “lazy” way to farm. The most common practice in conventional farming since 1996 when GMOs were first introduced is to take off a crop in the fall and then totally ignore the land until next spring’s planting time. Then, the farmer fills his chemical tank with the right amount of water and chemicals, goes out to his fields and sprays this poison onto them. Then he takes out his planter and puts the seed in the ground. Then he watches his fields to see if he has killed all of the plants he doesn’t want there. When he sees weeds growing that have become impervious to the sprays he initially applied he has to decide which poison to use next. Most likely it will be one that is even more detrimental to the earth and its creatures than the first one he used, and sometimes he might go the third time with his poison. In the meantime, he has most likely applied some synthetic fertilizers as well since there are no animals on the farm to provide manure.
Is this a “truthful” way to farm?
Manure, it seems, represents God’s sense of humor. How else to explain the magical properties of such a humanly repulsive plant-growing-partner that actually represents the perfect nature of God’s plan, and brings humankind one step closer to Eden? What are the implications of the chemical/synthetic approach to the God-given gift of this good earth and how does it fit the toil and sweat model? Since Moses tells us we are made in God’s image and the Apostle John tells us that God is love, does this type of farming properly represent our God and God’s plan for this good earth?
Feeding the World
Today’s farmers and the general public are constantly confronted with propaganda that says we must use the current systems of no till, GMO, chemical so that we will be able to feed a burgeoning world population that is predicted to reach nine billion by the year 2050. There are several problems with this claim. First of all, the vast majority of GMO seeds planted today are corn and soybean. Depending on the source of information accessed on this statistic, only 40-50% of total corn harvested is used for feed of any kind; animal or human. The rest is used for all sorts of other purposes including ethanol for fuel, plastics, other chemicals, and vast amounts of high fructose corn syrup. If the 50-60% of land being used for the production of things other than food were to be used for food production, those 9 billion, it seems, could easily be adequately fed.
In fact, the irony is that most cultures around the world, cultures not drenched in the corporate ethos of western science-capitalism, understand inherently that the way to feed communities is to grow food in them, not thousands of miles away. Those farmers on every continent – on African, American, Asian and European soil – those small, family farmers know this, and respect it. It’s only in the boardroom that this great lie keeps being trumpeted – that the only way to “feed the world” is to conquer nature in its completeness.
The Way Forward
There are intellectual and academic studies and papers that show that farming organically without sacrificing production levels is possible and in the case of the study done by Rodale Institute of Kutztown, PA, if all agricultural practices would be transitioned to organic worldwide, the effects of climate change could be mitigated in a very short time. (Rodale Institute; Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change)
This study posits the idea that the carbon sequestering properties of cover crops, crop rotation, and reduced tillage can actually sequester more carbon than is emitted, reversing climate change. The Rodale Institute has developed a mechanical cover crop roller system that lays down a cover crop in order to practice no-till planting of a primary crop to take advantage of the soil conservation characteristics of chemical no-till farming in a non-chemical way.
What are the moral, ethical, and religious implications of the practices we use for growing things?
And let us not forget, there are major implications not only for farmers; those who care for lawns, manage golf courses, and grow gardens in back-yards are included in this discussion. Do we give careful consideration to the creatures that inhabit this world with us, from the biggest beasts of burden used to cultivate fields to the tiniest microbe inhabiting the soil under our feet, all living and all subject to our human interventions or partnerships? And if we have chosen to grow our crops organically, have we chosen to do it because of our concern for the earth and its people or are we drawn to it mainly for economic reasons?
This question is very important when one considers the temptations toward dishonest practices and “cutting corners” that may tempt those who are accustomed to “lazy” farming practices as they are transitioning to organic practices.
Farming and gardening choices and practices that spring from hearts and minds determined to approach the earth and its creatures with an attitude of respect, humility, and awe will consider carefully the best ways to partner with it rather than constantly trying to find ways to dominate it. As more and more intellectual and academic efforts are brought to bear on God’s immaculate system of sustenance, and more is learned about it, and what is learned is put into practice, all of God’s creation will draw closer to the Garden of Eden.
All are invited to join.