Good Courage Farm: God Regenerates Soil and Spirit  

Inviting all of creation to flourish

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Photo of silo

 God is at work regenerating lives and spirits in our world. God is also regenerating soil and our creation. God is at work in places we can imagine, and surprises us in places we might not think of as holy or sacred. 

One of the more fascinating experiences of Good Courage Farm is worshiping God in an old silo. The sound of the chanting and prayer cannot be adequately captured on tape. As an old farm kid that spent plenty of time throwing frozen slightly sweet, acid smelling silage down the silo shoot to feed the animals, it was shocking. It was beautiful. God can claim and use many places and spaces to serve the Gospel. God also can claim and reclaim lives, regenerating us through worship, proclamation of the Good News we know through Jesus, community, word, and sacrament. 

Many farmers are exploring regenerative strategies to grow their soil healthier. These natural means like cover crops, animals grazing, and other tactics increase the microbial action, allow more water to be captured, and create the right conditions for crops to do better. Many of these practices are old and being used in new or traditional ways.  Farmers across the country are trying these strategies in increasing numbers. 

Whether you grow things in gardens, small plots, or big fields we invite you to imagine ways you might explore these strategies in our Rural Ministry case study video.

If you have not taken time to watch it, please do. If you have time today, go deeper into the second section, starting at the 3.31 mark until the next one starts at 10.48

The video shares the story of the mission and ministry of Good Courage Farm, led by Episcopal Priest Kerri Meyer, supported by Lutheran Pastor Christian Muellerleile, and many others beyond the Vineyard Stewards group serving in the video. This story is about a smaller fruit farm. Not all farming and agriculture happens on large farms. Many people grow food and farm in ways that we rarely notice or name in our talk about rural contexts, which often focuses on larger farms or ranches.  Part of the mission of this video is to open eyes to see the varieties of agriculture and learn about new/old models of growing food. Secondarily, we want to invite you to imagine how you might approach ministry using new/ancient models, while utilizing unique spaces as well. 

Regenerative 

Regenerate Regenerate Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster 

Adjective – re·​gen·​er·​ate ri-ˈje-nə-rət  -ˈjen-rət

1 : formed or created again 2 : spiritually reborn or converted 3 : restored to a better, higher, or more worthy state

 Born Anew or From Above 

The language of Regenerative Agriculture connects to the regenerating work of God as well.  God is graciously making people new through being “born from above” or “born again.” 

 In the Christian faith, this language means being formed or created again… or converted.  In the case of Regenerative Agriculture, it means to be “restored to a better, higher, or more worthy state.”  

You can connect Regenerative Agriculture to the regenerating love and grace of God that we celebrate in baptism, and for some in dramatic spiritual renewal. There may be important lessons to learn and translate to our ministry in this swiftly changing world. 

Regenerative Farming Introduction 

 Not all concepts of regenerative agriculture are accepted or supported by all farmers.  Join the conversation, and learn what they find helpful and what they have questions about in this movement.  Invite them to teach you about what they are doing as they seek to be good stewards of the land they farm.   

When you talk about regenerative agriculture, you will hear about strategies, challenges, and responses like:

  • Cover crops /Loss of topsoil /Keep the soil covered  
  • Loss of biodiversity /Maximize crop diversity
  • Reducing external inputs 
  • Climate impact of agriculture 
  • Integrate livestock grazing on land
  • Minimize disturbance 
  • Water is not limitless  – Water quality is degrading. Underground aquifers are being depleted. 

Much has been written, videos and even movies have been made about how farmers in various ways and places are exploring regenerative farming. People engage regenerative concepts at different paces, and in different ways.  This experimentation, and learning to take care of the soil can make a big difference in creating healthier soil and reducing input costs for farmers. 

 

Regenerative Ministry 

The careful work of building up the soil and encouraging the interdependence of animals and plants invites you to think about the persistent and steady work of joining with God’s Spirit which does the heavy lifting of growing faith in each of us, and in the community of Jesus deep and wide. Like Regenerative Farming that seeks to have everything flourish, Regenerative Ministry seeks to invite all people and all of creation to flourish. Where has God been at work regenerating your lives and the lives of others?  Where do you connect to God?  

The patience and experimentation to get the work right, allows space to rethink the strategies for ministry and mission in Christ’s Church, in our personal life of faith, and in the lives of the people God places around us in our mission field.  God’s presence and work is more systemic, deep, and wide than we often imagine. 

Throughout history people have  connected to God using many faith practices, from spending time in nature,  to music (like the chanting of psalms), to feeding the hungry, and encountering people God uses to touch our life, both as individuals and as members of a community. 

Experimentation: Vineyard Stewards on the Farm

Regenerative Agriculture and Regenerative Ministry both require ongoing experimentation.  Pr. Christian talked about this in the video. “What does it mean to experiment here on the farm? I think for sure it means trying and knowing in the same way that we experiment with farming itself, that we’re going to draw on wisdom. We’re going to ask for good advice, and we’re going to do the best we can. And it might absolutely crash and burn. So to be willing to take risks, risks and to trust the community to say what’s life giving and what’s not? … I think one of our best experiments here so far … has been doing an ongoing year long Bible study cohort that we call Vineyard Stewards, where folks come from a bunch of different parishes….”

  • …they don’t know each other and 
  • they might not know each other even very well from within their own congregations and 
  • they might not have met the other congregations.…we make them into a farming team and they tend the vineyard here. 
  • …they’ve come out in March to do the pruning in the dead of winter, and 
  • …they’ve come out in early summer to do the mulching, and 
  • …then they’ve come out to train the vines and to net the vines.
  • …now they’re harvesting the grapes and we’ll press the  wine together. 

”[W]e don’t really know what we’re doing, but we’re with a bunch of people who are really game. And every time we gather, we do the things that anchor us so that the risky new things don’t feel as scary, right?… we read scripture,… and then we go do the thing that scripture was talking about. So if we read from the Gospel of John about God being the vine dresser and pruning us, then we go out and we prune.” That wisdom also translates to the work of ministry. 

Good Courage Farm “grows 14 different perennial fruit crops. And all of those crops were established when Jen and I bought this farm back in 2019. So we grow rhubarb and asparagus, black currants, white currants, red currants, gooseberries, pears, plums (and apples).” Each are experiments. 

The Good Courage Farm seeks not only to feed people’s bodies. They seek to care for and help people flourish like their gardens, vineyards, and apple orchards. One person who watched the video said, “Perfection looks different in the reign of God.”

Persistent Grace 

God does not give up on us.  Like the man who wants to give the fig tree one more year, God in God’s grace seeks to regenerate our lives and bring forth fruits of many kinds from us personally … and as a community. 

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the man working the vineyard, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good, but if not, you can cut it down’” (Luke 13:6–9 NRSVue).

In the future we will share more resources and stories from this ministry. Each blog article and ebook will highlight one of the themes in the video. We are thankful for all the people who are doing regenerative ministry in many forms. 

We are thankful that Good Courage Farm was willing to let us share their story. Join them for “Pie and Prayer” if you are in the area. 

We also hope to hear from you about what was most helpful, and ideas for other videos or blog posts. We are also actively looking for other stories to share about small town and rural ministries in different contexts which would lift up the many callings in rural and small town life and ministry.

Download our Renewing Soil & Spirit Workbook:

Regenerative Farming: Regenerating Soil and Lives

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  • Jon Anderson

    Pastor Jon Anderson serves as Director of Rural Ministry at Luther Seminary. He recently completed eighteen years of service as bishop in the Southwestern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA.

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