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Suicide Rate for American Farmers Double the Average of Other Occupations

 
The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it. Proverbs 10:22
 
I have heard some depressing stories and read some saddening statistics about the state of the modern farmer, but I was shocked by an excerpt I read from a new book called The Good Food Revolution, by urban farmer Will Allen. I quote it as follows:
 
“In 1890, researchers for the U.S. Census Bureau ranked professions that had the highest rate of suicide. Tailors, accountants, bookkeepers, clerks, and copyists suffered the most. At the bottom of the list was a career least likely to lead to self-harm: farming. Today, the suicide rate for American farmers is double the national average for everyone else.”
 
Double the national average suicide rate! Many people talk about the dangers of farming because of heavy machinery and chemicals, but rarely do you hear that farming can be dangerous for your emotional health. Why is this so? What changed to make farmers go from the least likely to even consider suicide, to one of the highest? The article goes on to explain:
 
“Several recent studies, including a report by the USDA, have attempted to understand why many farmers are struggling emotionally. Some farmers who are asked about the high rates of suicide speak of a sense of loss: the loss of community, the loss of income, and not least, the loss of independence. Many rural farmers say that they are increasingly paid less for more work, and they owe more today for their seeds, fertilizers, equipment, and pesticides. They work one or two jobs outside of their farm in order to stay on their land. They feel ashamed that they cannot be self-sufficient in the way they believe their ancestors were. Instead of growing many crops, they plant hundreds of acres of corn or soybeans. They spray their fields with fertilizer and work off the farm while the corn grows. At the end of the season, the crop is harvested with a large combine.
This is an agriculture controlled by large machines. The land and the people on it are only units of production. The farmer may be compelled to grow on a scale that is uncomfortably large to him. He may borrow money for equipment he can’t afford, and he may never meet the people (or the industrial animals) who eat what he produces.”
 
I grieve for the American farmer. He has sought to do the best he can at producing food for people, but he has become a slave because he has failed to look to God for guidance in the way he farms. It is tempting for all of us to listen to the world’s advice when they promise a glittering picture of success and happiness. However, true wisdom is found in the fear of the Lord, and when we stray from the law of God, we will reap the consequences. I believe some of the troubles that American farmers face are because of the following reasons:
 
1. American farms have become factories, instead of homes.
       When God planted the Garden of Eden, it was a beautiful, fruitful home. It was a place where relationships were cultivated as well as plants. The first farm consisted of a family working in a garden together cultivating it for the glory of God. It was also where man walked with God. Today many farms have become sterile factories void of any meaningful relationships. Farms used to be busy places, bustling with life and people. However, if you visit most American farms today, they are often lonely places where few people are seen amid the vast oceans of grain. Often the animals are even hidden away in their large confinement houses. These farms are very efficient, but they lack the joy and satisfaction that come from the relationships God intended to take place on them. The happy homestead has become the stressful factory farm.
 
2. American farming models are debt-based.
       In Proverbs 22:7 we read, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Because of the scale of today’s factory farms, their production models are inherently debt-based. As we saw in the article quoted previously, farmers borrow money for equipment, seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides. This takes away their independence and makes them a slave, which should be a very undesireable place to be. But farmers line up to sign up every year. In Dueteronomy 28 one of the blessings for Israel’s obedience was that they would lend to many, but would borrow from none. It is apparent that the majority of American farms are not enjoying the blessing of the Lord.
 
3. American farmers look to the government for success, instead of God.
       The American farmer probably likes to view himself as self-reliant, but when something goes wrong or he needs help he tends to run to the government for advice or a handout. However, the government doesn’t acknowledge God or his Word, and their advice and assistance has done more harm than good. If American farmers want to receive the blessing of the Lord, then they need to begin looking to Him for wisdom and power to make them successful. They need to seek first His Kingdom by viewing their farms as part of a life of worship in which they are ruling over God’s creation and ministering to others. God is in control, and farmers need to recognize that and stop worrying. If they don’t, then the huge amount of uncertainty and risk involved with farming will lead to depression and suicide, just like we see today.
 
If you know any farmers, especially those who may be exposed to the stresses of God-less farming, please take opportunities the Lord gives you to encourage them to trust the Lord and find ways they can be more obedient to him in the way they farm. It is not going to happen overnight, but I pray that the Lord will restore to this country and its farmers the joy and blessing that can only by found though following the real joy-giver, Jesus Christ.

Read Full Article on Redeeming the Dirt

Join Us at the Reformation of Food and the Family Conference!

We're very excited about a big event coming up in two weeks.  It's the Reformation of Food and the Family Conference in San Antonio, Texas July 12-14, sponsored by Vision Forum Ministries. 

True Food Solutions will have a booth there and we look forward to engaging many likeminded reformers in discussions about the challenges and solutions we're finding as we work to transition away from the modern industrial food economy to a more natural and sustainable food system.  In thinking about this upcoming event while gardening the other morning, I recorded this short video.

 

Here's some info on the event from the organizers.

You do it three times a day, seven days a week and fifty-two weeks a year. If you live to be 85 years of age, you will experience it more than 90,000 times. It is called food, and it was designed by God as the fuel of life. But to describe food merely as fuel falls short of the depth and breadth of the biblical message. Frankly, there are few subjects which are addressed as often in the Bible as food. Hundreds, if not thousands of Scripture verses, incorporate various types of food, directions about food and spiritual lessons in which food is an element.

In food we see the love of Jesus Christ for His Church, the wisdom of God as Creator, the mercy of the Lord on the sons of men, and a vehicle for structuring and organizing the life and dominion labors of mankind.

Discussion Topics Include:

  • Food as Family Culture

  • The Theology of Mealtime

  • The Politicization of Food

  • The Future of Food in America

  • The Joy of Culinary Wisdom

  • Avoiding Food Heresies

  • Food and Frugality

  • The Art of Hospitality

  • Informed Stewardship of the Body

  • And Many More!

 
Speakers Include:

  • Joel Salatin

  • Chef Francis Foucachon

  • Doug Phillips

  • And Many More!

Reformation of Food and the Family Conference

Are you coming to the Reformation of Food and the Family Conference?  If so, please be sure to leave a comment below and RSVP to the Food Conference on Facebook.  Even if you're not able to come, please Like the Food Conference Facebook page to get updates, and keep tabs on the True Food Solutions page for updates before and during the conference.

Finally, look for some special news and promotions that we'll be doing in conjunction with the conference that will give both attendees and those at home the chance to participate in some great activities and giveaways.  Spread the word!

 

 

The Reformation of Food and the Family

Next month I will be priveliged to speak at the Reformation of Food and the Family Conference in San Antonio, Texas. This is a groundbreaking conference, seeking to discuss what the Bible says about what we eat. Joel Salatin will be a featured speaker. I am scheduled to do several workshops and panels. Please pray for me as I prepare that God would give me encouraging and challenging words to speak to those who attend. If you are interested in coming to this conference, you can find out more information here.

The following article is a thought-provoking article from the conference website:

Read Full Article on Redeeming the Dirt

Walk Your Farm with THE Owner

Walk your Farm with THE Owner

It is a very busy season around the farm here, and it is hard to take time to blog. I guess blogging on a farm changes with the seasons along with everything else. The Lord is very gracious and merciful, and has blessed our growing season more than my skill and efforts merit. May he help me to be faithful in the little things everyday. The picture above shows the beautiful garden of a dear family that we visited this past weekend.

The following is an excerpt from my book that several people have said they appreciated, so I thought I would share it with all of you.

Walking Your Farm with the Owner

One thing that could help promote a better sense of stewardship in our hearts is taking a walk around the farm. The goal of the walk should not be to dwell on the work you need to do on the farm, but rather to simply walk the farm with its Owner. Apparently God walked with Adam, the first steward, in the garden of Eden. And I think the Lord would enjoy walking with us around the farms He has given us.

On your walk with the Lord go alone if possible. Pray out loud or whisper if that would be more comfortable. But just talk with the Lord and give Him a tour of the farm. Give Him thanks for all that He has blessed you with. Show Him the garden, the chickens, the pasture, the greenhouse, the cows—whatever you have, and give Him an account of how you have been caring for and working them. Acknowledge that they all belong to Him and ask Him to show you how you can better manage them. When you come across the chickens that are walking around in mud because you have been putting off moving them, then repent and ask Him to help you do a better job. Tell Him about the problem you have with disease on your tomato plants, or erosion in your newly planted pasture and ask Him to show you a solution. At times just be silent and observe. Look at His design in Creation. Pay attention to the needs that you may have previously overlooked. And give notice to any opportunities that He may reveal to you, like the acorns in the woods that could be fed to the pigs. At the end of the walk give thanks to God for granting you this land and dedicate it to His glory.

Read Full Article on Redeeming the Dirt

An Experimental Potato Plot

growing potatoes in hay

 

As regular readers know, our family is pretty big on potatoes. We eat them 3 meals a day, every day! I’ve always grown good potatoes. The boys took over potato planting back when we lived in southern NY and even won first prize at the Broome county fair with their Red Pontiacs. After moving up here my success with taters ended. Heavy clay soil is one thing, but wet clay soil is another. Our farm is very wet and has standing water in most areas from spring till freeze up. Its almost impossible to grow good potatoes here. I had thought about trying to grow them in vertical towers but decided against it because we would need such a large number of them to grow any decent amount of potatoes. This year I decided to try growing them above ground under a heavy hay mulch. Here is the process we used…

The first thing we did was bring up several loads of composted hay/manure from a spot where cattle had been fed round bales outside several years ago. We covered a 15ftx25ft area with this material about 8 to 10 inches deep. Some of it was well rotted compost, some was half decomposed hay and some of it was clay.

Next we planted 50 lbs of potatoes intensive style, about 12 inches or so apart across the whole area. We didn’t bury them, just layed them on top.

After we got the potatoes on the ground we brought over a round bale of hay that was baled with a roto-cut baler. We spread 3/4 of the bale over the spuds.

Read full article on North Country Farmer

Don’t Work Like a Greedy Farmer

Don't be a Greedy Farmer

One of the areas that I struggle in as I try to be a good stewardly farmer is the amount of work that I try to get done each day. My tendency is to look at all that I want to get done, write up an optimistic to do list for the day, and then run around frantically trying to get it all done, and end the day disappointed because I didn’t. However, I don’t think this is what God desires for his farmers.

One of the biblical foundations for born again farming is the fact that God is the one that makes things grow. In other words, only he can produce the fruit. This means that we aren’t to go out and try to produce fruit in our own strength. Instead, we need to focus on being faithful with the time, skill, and resources God has given us and leave the results of our faithfulness up to him.  

Read Full Article on Redeeming the Dirt

Don't Work Like a Greedy Farmer

Don't be a Greedy Farmer

One of the areas that I struggle in as I try to be a good stewardly farmer is the amount of work that I try to get done each day. My tendency is to look at all that I want to get done, write up an optimistic to do list for the day, and then run around frantically trying to get it all done, and end the day disappointed because I didn’t. However, I don’t think this is what God desires for his farmers.

One of the biblical foundations for born again farming is the fact that God is the one that makes things grow. In other words, only he can produce the fruit. This means that we aren’t to go out and try to produce fruit in our own strength. Instead, we need to focus on being faithful with the time, skill, and resources God has given us and leave the results of our faithfulness up to him.  

Read Full Article on Redeeming the Dirt

Bring Back the Tithe Barn

A Tithe Barn in England

A Tithe Barn in England

At one time in on this continent, the rural landscape looked much different than it does today. When the first Americans settled here they brought with them a biblical worldview, reinforced with an optimistic eschatology and love for for God’s Law. According to Rushdoony, gleaning remained a regular practice in the farming areas into the 19th century. In colonial America, as in Europe at the time, the tithe barn was a prominent landmark in rural villages.  Tithe barns were used by local churches to store the tithe of farm produce from the rural parishioners and was latter distributed to the needy or sold to pay bills. 

In modern America almost all tithing is expected to be done with Federal Reserve Notes.  With the coming economic collapse and the destruction of our fiat currency, rural churches should give serious consideration to bring back the tithe barn.  We have a great opportunity to take back the responsibility of caring for the poor as the bankrupt state defaults.  Our rural congregations have a vast wealth of food and fiber to tithe.  Our responsibility is to approach our Elders and Deacons and sell them on the concept.  The countryside may again prosper when we see tithe barns in every rural village and the church taking a central role in society.

 

 

The Wild Garden

Think of the typical picture of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve are lounging around somewhere, conveniently behind some foliage. They are enjoying the uncorrupted paradise of Eden watching the leaves and plants whirl in the wind. They do not seem to have a care in the world. They simply sit back, petting some of the plentiful animals around them in this wonderful wilderness.

Wilderness? Why is it portrayed as a wilderness? It was the Garden of Eden. “And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” (Genesis 2:8 ESV) And why are they not working? After all the Bible says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15 ESV) This manner of portraying paradise as a jungle and sinless Adam and Eve as leisurely consumers has much to say about the way our culture understands work.

Our culture has been influenced by a humanism that does not want to be constrained by the Law of God, and instead wants to be autonomous and unrestrained. In general it sees unkept nature as a paradise that has been uncorrupted by the law, order, and civilization of mankind. The innocent, the natural, and the wild are sought out as supposed remnants of our original harmony with the environment. As Ralph W. Emerson said, “Infancy is the perpetual Messiah, which comes into the arms of fallen men, and pleads with them to return to paradise.” In art we see a pattern of nakedness and naturalism starting with the Greeks and Romans, and being carried along and modified by the Renaissance, the Romantics and Transcendentalists of the 1800s, and the Hippies of the 1960s. These various philosophies have influenced our own culture where a kind of pantheistic environmentalism has found its way in.

This is contrary to a biblical understanding of work and dominion. When God created man, He created him to work and subdue the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). Man cannot escape his responsibility to exercise dominion over the earth. He will either use it in a wrong way, by abusing it or by ignoring it, or he will use it in a right and godly way. Because man is now corrupted and evil, his dominion is corrupted and evil as well. Thus we are to be cautions with the productions of men. This corruption of man is what makes the glorification of wilderness so appealing, as it does have a ring of truth. But becoming one with nature in noble barbarism is not the way to solve this problem. Nature has also been cursed and put into bondage to corruption. To exercise a right relation with our surroundings, we need a right relation with the Creator of those surroundings, and as redeemed Christians we are enabled to fulfill this dominion mandate by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Our personal redemption and relationship with God flows out into the renewal of our relationships throughout life with both humans and the natural environment. While we should be humble, as we are still sinners and are dealing with God’s creation, we ought to work for ways to put creation into order and improved productivity.

A good picture of Eden would be where Adam and Eve work to learn about their surroundings, to order them, to make them produce, and to create a civilization. You would see crops planted, fruit trees being pruned, and boats being built for transportation. Perhaps they could be building beds and furniture. They would have time for rest as well, and the work would be more enjoyable than it is in our sin-corrupted world, but working would play an essential part in their life.

A lot more can be said on the subject of dominion and proper stewardship. But without going into the ditch of industrialism and materialism, we should not see primitivism and wildness as the perfect ideal. May we remember this when we are working in our own gardens, farms, or wherever we work. We are fulfilling part of our God given role when we work and take care of His world. The land will be blessed with good produce (and good food) when we work the right way to make it produce. May we remember to regard work as a blessing whereby we worship God and carefully keep His garden, making it even more productive and beautiful.

 

If you liked this post, you may be interested in the 3-part series reviewing Joel Salatin’s speech on Food and Christian Credibility.

Food: Cornerstone of Christian Credibility by Joel Salatin: Part Three, Farming and Community

Joel Salatin

In this third and final review of Joel Salatin’s audio message, I want to consider some of his charges regarding community values. Parts One and Two of this review series addressed Christian credibility and the worldview that forms the basis of our food choices.

Listen to the speech audio here.

[audio:http://truefoodsolutions.com/Joel-Salatin-Food-and-Christian-credibility.mp3]

Joel Salatin attributes many of the weaknesses of the commercial food industry to its outgrowing of small communities. When small businesses become too large for their local community, he says, the community no longer appreciates them and the businesses become unattached and unaccountable. A good food system, he advises, is small enough to be embedded in a local community—lending the business greater potential for transparency, integrity, and humility.

2011 07 16 Farmers Market

The best kind of food system will respect the heritage and traditions of the people in any given community. Such a food system will further the healing of the land instead of exploitation, and will promote individuality of animals instead of seeking to make them identical in size and production. Striving for healing of the land, Salatin says, “extends redemption in a visceral way” and brings significance to the minutia of life. As human beings, we express our inherent, divine design in unique ways, and we should think about the same philosophy for our land and our animals.

Today’s business plans for industrial agriculture do not account for values: relationships, community, tradition, healing, ecology, or diversity. In the attempt to return to smaller businesses embedded in local cultures, new business plans need to account for these values. Getting away from planning for and accounting for values is what has led businesses to be valueless, and eventually—unaccountable and corrupt.  Some suggestions toward reviving interest in smaller food systems included relaxing of laws in order to encourage small farmers, and helping people to appreciate values as an important part of the food system. There will need to be deconstruction of some things—prohibitive laws, and carelessness about values—in order to reconstruct a new paradigm.

Values as they relate to food production are much broader than they may seem. In one way, a value-rich food system is not only about the food but extends into the rest of our lives. Joel Salatin gives the example of the Jeffersonian idea of the “intellectual agrarian.” Thomas Jefferson’s fruitful estate was just one facet of his love for husbandry, his love for community and statesmanship, and his vision for the future of the American nation. This type of farmer is not someone who just drives the tractor that an agricultural conglomerate tells him to drive, but is a persona whose wide range of knowledge, skills, and interests matches the respect that farmers deserve. Food that is raised in a valuable way extends not only to the people eating it, then, but affects the relationships and other pursuits of everyone involved.

Similarly, the other way in which conscientious food production (and consequently, food purchasing) is valuable, is that it is not just about us. Consumer habits, the ecology of the landscape, the status of farm workers, the pollution of waterways—all of these affect the work and livelihoods of other people, even people beyond our own community. Organic produce, for instance, not only keeps us from ingesting pesticides, but helps farm workers not to be daily exposed to harmful toxins as they tend the crops.

Pursuing the establishment of values in our food systems will give us more consistency, and ultimately, credibility. Caring for others is a principle of Christianity, as is accountability. It is my hope—and Joel Salatin’s bold charge—that Christians would desire credibility in our food choices and farming methods. Not only will this benefit our own lives and witness to unbelievers, but better communities will be advanced.

Thanks for joining us for this series!

 

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