Available September 15, 2014!
I was blessed to publish The Land That Calls Me Home in April of 2014. Many who have read it engaged me in conversation through personal correspondence and social media. They shared invaluable experiences, insights, and challenges related to the church’s role in the loss and recovery of the health of agriculture. Inspired by the conversations the book sparked, and urged by pastors and church leaders who inquired about using the book for small-group study, I began to develop a new tool to guide small groups in reflection, prayer, and action to address the disappearance of small-scale farms from rural America.
The tool is called Side Dressing: A Group Study Resource for The Land That Calls Me Home. It is a 50-page workbook organized around the 16 chapters of the book. Side Dressing will stimulate conversation in your small-group that brings home the tragic cost of the disappearance of small-scale farms and how decisions we make every day impact the hope and difficulty of their revival. Side Dressing is a prayer-centered resource that leads to deeper understanding of and care for the people who farm and for the amazing land and its resources through which God created and continues to create life. Order copies today for every member of your small-group through Amazon and Createspace for $4 each.
The Land That Calls Me Home is available through Amazon and Createspace for $12 a copy. The book casts a vision for the church to lead in a revival of small-scale farms and help restore their viability and place as the economic center of rural communities. In analyzing the cause of the loss of small-scale farms, the book goes beyond naming the usual suspects of industrialization, agricultural policies, and corporations. From my perspective as a pastor of forty years and a long-time student of theology and the Bible, I name two overlooked players in driving farmers away from the land: Theology and the Church.
I believe the church has failed to resist the powers and principalities that have separated human beings from the life-giving soil from which God created human life and with which God intends to bless human beings in the future.
“In the past, the church celebrated the increased production of relatively cheap food resulting from the get big or get out approach to farming. The surplus of food grown by big producers benefited the church food pantries and soup kitchens from which we feed the hungry and it boosted our efforts to combat world hunger’(p. 159).
By confessing our complicity in causing the current farm crisis in America and the expanding hunger, environmental, and economic crisis worldwide, church leaders can act to reverse much of the damage that has been done. With renewed vision of God’s intention to redeem creation along with human souls (Romans 8:18-25), the church can help restore the viability of small-scale farming in rural communities on the fringes of larger population centers. Churches can serve as network hubs for farmers, whose crops are too small to win contracts with large grocery chains, to sell their produce in local Farmers Markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) networks. Churches that catch the vision to support local agriculture have the volunteer base, the parking lots, and the presence in their communities to organize and run effective Farmers Markets. They provide a service to the farmers and to their community while reconnecting people to the soil.
Expand the conversation in your church about buying more of the food you eat from local farmers, growing some of your own food, or becoming a small-scale farmer yourself. It is possible and critical for us to strengthen our local food supply, but it will require some difficult choices. We need each other to make these decisions, keep our commitments, and make local food options more available. Use Side Dressing as a resource for your existing small-groups or organize a new small-group to study, pray over, and take action to advance the revival of small-scale farming in your community.