“I believe in agriculture,” she said.

Then she paused and nodded her head slowly while letting out a sigh.  Her presentation continued, but I was stuck in that moment.  Her statement was so simple, but it has left a lasting mark on me.  I understood her words to mean that her life has been deeply affected by agriculture.  The pause and nod were a silent reflection of the impact that has been left with her.  Her words struck me so profoundly because I think I am starting to be affected by agriculture in a deep way, too.  I feel as though my journey into agriculture is taking me down a path that is showing me familiar scenery from a different angle.  I am seeing, or perhaps, re-seeing things again in light of my understanding of agriculture.  Words and phrases that I am leaning in the context of agriculture are being applied to non-agrarian aspects of my life.

The biggest intersection has been between gardening and faith.  Words originally associated with gardening have been transplanted into my “Christian” vocabulary.  This certain isn’t unique to me.  My Christian heritage is filled with agrarian language:  The psalmist sings “the Lord is my shepherd.”  Jesus often began his parables by comparing the Kingdom of God to a man who sows seeds.  In contemporary culture  the word “organic” has become a buzzword for many churches.  I recognize that these images and phrases have been a part of my vocabulary for quite some time, but it hasn’t been until my hands were covered with the soil from my garden that I felt like I could really understand these images.

I hope that I will be able to unpack my thoughts clearly.  As I have thought about what to write for this collaboration I realized that I couldn’t/shouldn’t pack all my thoughts into one post.  I expect this post to be like preparing the soil in the bed; it’s the first step in the whole process.  In the coming weeks or months I’d like to cultivate a few ideas regarding the comparisons between gardening and church in three areas: 1. Organic vs. Conventional  2. Local vs. Global  3. Heirloom vs. Hybrid.

For this post I’d like to begin with a quote by Wendell Berry:

“We must learn to see that every problem that concerns us as conservationists always leads straight to the the question of how we live.” (Conservation is Good Work)

I think that it is important to define the word conservation before moving too far forward.  Wikipedia defines conservation as “a political, social and, to some extent, scientific movement that seeks to protect natural resources including plant and animal species as well as their habitat for the future.”  Our contemporary infatuation with sustainability is, at the core, a focus on conservation.  Conservation must attend to the needs of the future.  Conservationists recognize that our actions today affect our opportunities of tomorrow.  We cannot separate our beliefs from our actions.  I see the truth of this quote living itself out in both my understanding of gardening and of faith.

A quote by Joel Salatin:

“You know what the best kind of organic certification would be?  Make an unannounced visit to a farm and take a good long look at the farmer’s bookshelf.  Because what you’re feeding your emotions and thoughts is wht this is really all about.  The way I produce a chicken is an extension of my worldview.  You can learn more about that by seeing what’s sitting on my bookshelf then having me fill our a whole buch of forms.”

After I read this quote I went to look at my bookshelf to ask the question, “What do these books say about me?”  I haven’t been able to figure out what they say, so if anyone wants to come over and take a look let me know.  But I do agree that my worldview is shaped by the things that I read.  As I have started to buy books about gardening I have been conscious about what the books are really saying.  Beneath the surface of planting instructions you will see the worldview of the authors.  Is the author promoting actions that encourage sustainability or are they giving easy answers encouraging a regular pesticide used?  Does the author encourage the reader to look at long term plans about crop rotations?  When I look at the theological books that I have I ask the same questions.  Does the author offer a quick solution to the problems I’m facing or is there encouragement to look beyond the immediate to understand what’s going on.  Does the author recognize the seasonal cycles of growth that we go through?

My decision to tend a vegetable garden has affected most areas of my life.  It has caused me to look at the things that I had been throwing into the trash, which I now add to the compost pile, and seeing that I don’t need to be producing that much waste.  It has helped me slow down.  I am starting to see the purpose of growing vegetables is more than just recieving the harvest.  The purpose is in the harvest as much as in the planting and as much as in weeding.  I see this change of thinking in my understanding of my faith also.  I believe that the purpose of Christianity is not simply to get “butts into Heaven,” but rather about the journey with GOD.

I feel as though I’m trailing off in my thoughts.  I appologize if this is incoherent.  I hope to take some better time to work on the next three posts.