Farming for the Soul

Excellent piece in today’s NY Times about the growing numbers of people who are pursuing sustainable agriculture from religious motivations. Many of the farmers interviewed express opinions similar to our own thoughts:

For some religious people, change starts from the ground up, beginning with the way they treat the land. Dr. Adnan Aldayel, a Saudi Arabian financial consultant living in New Rockford, N.D., runs what he believes is the nation’s only organic halal producer, Dakota Halal. “We try to raise our animals the proper way, the right way,” he said. “We are the custodians of the ground.”

What I think is especially encouraging is the ecumenical and apostolic potential of sustainable agriculture, as the “why are we doing this” can become an excellent fodder for discussions of deeper things. I’m fascinated by the following arrangement:

NEAR a prairie dotted with cattle and green with soy beans, barley, corn and oats, two bearded Hasidic men dressed in black pray outside a slaughterhouse here that is managed by an evangelical Christian.

What brought these men together could easily have kept them apart: religion.

The two Hasidim oversee shehitah, the Jewish ritual slaughtering of meat according to the Book of Leviticus. The meat is then shipped to Wise Organic Pastures, a kosher food company in Brooklyn owned by Issac Wiesenfeld and his family. When Mr. Wiesenfeld sought an organic processor that used humane methods five years ago, he found Scott Lively, who was just beginning Dakota Beef, now one of the largest organic meat processors in the country.

As usual, Joel Salatin gets the last word (and the best):

Joel Salatin, who is considered a guru of organic agriculture, said he has seen a change in the people who visit his Polyface farm in Virginia.

“Ten years ago most of my farm visitors were earth muffin tree-hugger nirvana cosmic worshipers,” Mr. Salatin said. “And now 80 percent of them are Christian home schoolers.”

I must say that our own experience has been different; while many of the producers we know are Christian home schoolers, most of the people seeking out our farm products are still secular hippie types from Chicago who’ve grown up and have lots of money to spend.

2 thoughts on “Farming for the Soul

  1. Interesting article. This is basically what motivated me. Being in the Athens Ohio region many of the same folks are the “secular hippie” type, but I think that will start to change. We are seeing more Amish moving into the area because the land is relatively cheap and, in my opinion, they are feeling encroached upon in the areas they once thrived. But also the Amish are growing. But as a Christian of the Latin Rite, I do feel somewhat alone in this region, but hopefully with the growth of the Internet, I will be able to meet others close by that have the same calling. Also, I enjoy your weblog.Best regards,Brian


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