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Farming and Faithfulness, Part 2: Build Soil

Doing Christ-like actions must come from being a Christ-like person. At a time of crisis or decision we are not going to choose to perform a Christ-like action if we have not become people of faith, trust and love. Faithful doing is not ignored…rather, the ground of that doing is more fully explored. — Sandra Cronk, Dark Night Journey

There is no higher duty on any farm or homestead than to care for and nurture the soil, not as a part of the food independence project—soil care is the food independence project. Our soil is our life, and everything we do should be in some way an attempt to improve it.  A lifetime should suffice. — Harvey Ussery, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock

I’ve known, at least since I converted to organic agriculture about 15 years ago, that if I wanted healthy vegetables to eat I needed to make sure they grew in healthy soil. Depleted soil fortified by doses of quick-acting chemical fertilizer can grow a good-looking crop in the short term, but many researchers are convinced that such crops contain lower levels of vitamins and nutrients than organic crops grown in rich soil. As fossil fuels run lower, quick boosts of petroleum-derived fertilizer become less available. And the longer we use chemical supplements, the less effectively the soil’s innate fertility mechanisms work.

I’ve often failed to apply this knowledge to my own behavior. Sometimes I despair of correcting my abiding faults—carelessness, anxiety, resentment, vanity—and I try instead to wall off the unacceptable parts of myself and focus on doing nice things for other people and showing them only the more generous side of my nature. This approach can work for a little while, but it is neither healthy nor sustainable in the long term. It takes energy and attention to conceal or compartmentalize the parts of myself that I dislike. This means I’m more apt to be sluggish or careless in my work and my relationships with neighbors. It also means that I end up drained and exhausted. I am learning, slowly, to face the difficult parts of my nature, work with them, acknowledge them, pray for God’s help with them, and make myself more faithful, trusting and loving so that I really do love God and my neighbors wholeheartedly and work accordingly.

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