Cause Matters Blog

Posts Tagged ‘faith’

A Hunger for Faith-Based Agriculture Education

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Today I’m pleased to introduce Sarah Bedgar Wilson, M.S. as a guest blogger. She is the co-owner of Wilson Farm, Jamestown, North Dakota, where she, alongside her husband, Jeremy and their two daughters, ages 3 and 1, produce corn, wheat, soybeans, and pinto beans.  She was raised on her family’s farm in Maryland, where her extended family raises dairy heifers and a variety of crops. You can learn more about her “Farmer on a Mission” work at http://farmeronamission.blogspot.com.

Faith based agriculture education

A student at the 2009 Atonement Lutheran Church Vacation Bible School student enjoys a tour of Entzminger Dairy, Jamestown, ND.

While driving across the prairie on a starry night nearly two years ago, I prayed, “Lord, please help me to tell others about how you have called me to farm and to be a steward of your gifts.” Before I got home, the idea had come to me for the “10 Heifer Prayer”.

Each spring our Sunday school donates their collection to Heifer International, and each year the children have raised enough for a goat or a few chickens to donate to needy families around the world, but rarely enough to buy even one heifer.  I asked the council if they would help me to rally our church to help the Sunday School children raise not enough for one heifer, but TEN heifers ($5,000).  This would be an amazing gift that would provide a rural community in Ukraine over 40 gallons of milk a day.  I also asked if they would help me to teach the children about the basic biblical lessons of creation and stewardship and how they are being applied in agriculture today.  We called it faith-based ag education.

Children learning at church about agriculture

Children were excited to meet “Mary Moo” (yours truly) at “10 Heifer Prayer” events. Just don’t tell my children, they still don’t know it was me in the cow suit!

“Team Heifer” was formed and it turns out that, with God, anything really is possible.  Our church and the community were energized by the 10 Heifer Prayer.  On “Sundae Sunday” the children built a 50-foot long ice cream sundae in our fellowship hall, we had Sunday School lessons designed to fit the 10 Heifer Prayer theme, some nutty gal appeared on occasion in a cow costume (yep, it was me), Vacation Bible School was themed on creation and we even toured a dairy farm!  To conclude the project, I was asked to give a sermon, to share the story of how my family has been called to farm and serve as stewards of our land, animals and other natural resources.

Through this project, adults learned alongside the children and the results were astounding.  Not only did we raise enough to purchase 14 heifers ($7,000), but we also had a surprising turn-out to each event.  Especially Vacation Bible School, where we were planning for 30, over 90 attended the dairy farm tour!  People are hungry (pun intended) to learn about agriculture on a Christian/moral level.

There are two main reasons why I feel Christians in agriculture are obligated to share the truths of why and how we farm/ranch within the context of faith:

  1. Those whom oppose modern agriculture already have a presence in Christian circles.  For example, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has strategically begun a “Faith Outreach” program.My own church is struggling with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s (ELCA’s) draft social statement on “genetics” that discusses the use of genetics in agriculture. I could list many more examples, amongst all the major denominations.
  2. If we are faithful farmers and ranchers, following the command from the Lord to feed His people, then I believe He expects that we honor Him by sharing our testimonies on stewardship.  We also owe it to our fellow Christians who are not farmers/ranchers.  They are three to four generations removed from witnessing God’s miracles of growth and life in agriculture.

It is relevant, appropriate, and necessary that we in agriculture speak in terms of our faith about what we do.  Our consumers and our fellow Christians are demanding it.

In memory of Yvonne Hanzal, rancher’s daughter and beloved “Team Heifer” member.

~Guest Post by Sarah Bedgar Wilson, M.S.

Hungry for more? Related Post:

  1. The Sin of Animal Agriculture

The Sin of Animal Agriculture

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

Our family raises animals. Our family eats animals. Our family believes our faith is an important part of our life. Can those three go hand-in-hand?

Not according to recent accusations by animal rights activists.  After all, how can you possibly eat an animal if you love animals?  Wouldn’t that make you a hypocrite, according to messaging by groups such as the Humane Society of the United States?

These messages would have fallen on deaf ears when the majority of our country was involved in food production.  However, today 98.5% of the population is not on a farm or ranch – which means people are not exposed to the birth, care and death of animals that provide their food. They don’t see how modern day technology helps animals, such as keeping hogs cool in the intense heat – nor do people see the families involved with caring for those animals.

That doesn’t make it right or wrong – it’s just reality.  Generations removed from the farm means we no longer have conversation that animals die for us to eat. Somehow, we need to get back to understanding that farmers raise animals for food – animals that are very different than Fido or Fluffy.  Those farm animals take things we can’t eat or drink and convert them to life sustenance.Those of us in agriculture need to learn to better communicate that we are grateful for the sacrifice that farm animals pay so that we can eat. Not just to feed people in cities, but our families, too.

Frankly, most people probably don’t think about it until they’re given a guilt trip or shown shocking videos about farms and ranches. Most probably don’t consider the national security provided by our food supply. And, they probably just want to eat and enjoy their food – the same as our family, who, by the way, is mourning the loss of one our cats “Cutie” – mostly likely due to a coyote. I’m not happy about it, but I accept it as reality. And I don’t believe that makes me any less of a Christian.

It’s called the circle of life. I’m O.K. with drawing a line between our cat and the pork barbecue we had for dinner last night; different species serve different purposes. Farmers and ranchers have deep respect for the animals they care for. And – even more importantly – we take the sacred trust consumers have in us to deliver a safe food supply very seriously.

Last week, Dr. Wes Jamison of West Palm Beach University helped me remember the importance of empowering consumers to feel good about food choices.  Eating as you choose – not as food bigots direct you to – is not a sin. As Jamison says “Your dog is not a cow.” He encourages people to say-“I love meat.”  If you do, please help people understand that it’s just fine to enjoy meat and have a dog curled up at your feet.

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