Saturday, October 25, 2008

Farmers of this kind

The first time I met Joe & Becca I thought they might be brother and sister with their tawny red hair, fair skin, and earth-toned woolen sweaters. They are related, but as husband and wife, not siblings. It’s weird how some people get wired, I mean, just made with certain gifts. Either one of them can do about anything with their hands – music, carpentry, wool-making, raise 50 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and make killer lasagna.

I am seduced, awed, like maybe if I did life over again, this time I’d be them and get a farm, too. A lot has happened in three years since they married, moved to Stony Kill, New York, where for the first season they lived in a tent at the garden’s edge, and for two more seasons continued to manage an organic vegetable farm, saving every penny to buy land in SE Minnesota. Because they’ve been researching, because Joe’s father is also an organic farmer living in this area, and because they know their calling and have prayed so many times for guidance – when forty acres of land went up for sale at a great price, they bought it.

A couple weeks ago Denis and I drove out to see their land. It’s a property with some good sheds, a barn, and a condemned house. The barn floor was covered with freeze dried horse manure. No one has loved this farm in a long time. It’s overgrown with nettles and brambles. Fences are falling down. There junk piles. But hidden in tall grass we found a ray of red against the curse of thorns – a handful of tomatoes, a green pepper, and parsnip – volunteers from some old garden.

This is where their life will begin in December when they return to Minnesota and see the farm in reality for the first time – their work in NY hasn’t allowed any time away before then. The good price of the land allowed them to buy twice what they’d hoped, so Joe will be able to keep horses to help reclaim the soil and begin a vegetable farm. They plan to build a straw bale home next year. They know better than to think this will all be easy, having suffered in ways themselves. But they also know God is pleased when they make beautiful soil and good food from creation.

Next February I will be interviewing them for a workshop at the 2009 L’Abri conference. Hearing their story, their dreams, witnessing their energy for raising local food is a small, but significant push back against a fallen world. Or perhaps it’s a way of listening more intently to the groans of creation.


jenni said...

Wow, what a very-inspiring couple. I can't wait to hear more about their adventures on that land.

Abbie said...

50 varieties of heirloom tomatoes--wow! That's impressive!

Congrats to Joe & Becca on their new farm.

Jessie said...

Beautiful! Especially the tomatoes - they look like gumballs!

kate o. said...

thank you for telling their story (or at least part of it!). and how true when you say their work is a way of listening to the groans of creation.

i just attended the ccda (christian community development assoc.) conference here in miami where the topic was "seeking the shalom of the city." and this just brings to mind much of what was discussed. this couple appears to be truly seeking the peace of the land/creation.

Anonymous said...


I look forward to meeting them. Sounds like another good road trip. I'm always looking to work on houses that don't belong to me. A straw bale house might not have any carpet to spill paint on!

Greg Pitchford

Shawna said...

I am going to live vicariously through them! Keep us posted on their progress.

Jensen said...

Aha! Kindred spirits. Looking forward to meeting them.

abigail said...

Very cool. I look forward to hearing more about this couple.