We’re from Ohio!
When you read the word Ohio, what do you think of? You might think of cows and corn, or of a particular university which refers to itself as “The” university in Ohio. One summer afternoon I was sitting in a classroom on the campus of that university, listening to a young activist/historian lecture high students about colonialism. He was teaching about the violence necessary to wield power over an indigenous people in a foreign land and what it takes to mount a political and economic revolution against such a power.
Suddenly, he said something that blew my mind.
He explained that, when it comes right down to it, there are two basic economic resources: land and labor. As I reflected, it made sense. Of course, resources like food, water, clean air, shelter, and the care of others are critical to physical life, but land and work, and the connection between the two, are the stuff of economic development and power. Taking power over an established culture requires controlling its land and its labor.
From our earliest sacred stories until now, land and labor have been in constant tension.
In the beginning, God provided perfect land for humans. In fact, humans were made of the very humus of the Earth. As we rejected the self-sustaining, self-creating nature of God’s new world, and instead assumed control over it, we found the work harder than expected. In fact, working the land became a primary sentence for human Sin.
A context for injustice.
In the sacred Hebrew stories, we find a people taken from their land and put to work building and serving foreign powers in Egypt, Assyria and elsewhere. And, in the American story, we find that very same thing; people separated from their land and forced to work for the benefit of a violent, profit-driven foreign power.
Also a context for reconciliation and Reign.
It is certainly true that land and work are the basic resources of exploitation for power and profit. But, it is also true that – when used in relationship with God and others – they are the resources for a flourishing community. They are the basic earthly ingredients for a new economy, for God’s will being done on Earth.
For us, farming is at the center of a just world.
At Methodist Theological School in Ohio, we understand farming as a way to reconnect people with land and life, a place where humus and human remember each other. Through Seminary Hill Farm, MTSO’s 10-acre, USDA-certified organic farm, we grow fresh produce and gather fresh eggs for our community. At the intersection of our learning and work in economic, ecological, food, racial, and other forms of justice, we resist…by tending the soil. It’s our practical contribution to God’s “just society.”
Come and see. And, if you see justice in what we do, come and learn with us.
For more information about MTSO and/or Seminary Hill Farm, visit MTSO.edu or SeminaryHillFarm.org.
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Very cool! Hopefully some of your grads will carry forward the farming idea to their congregations and other spiritual communities. At Cedar Ridge Community Church in Maryland, we have a small farm (really, a garden) where we grow fruit & veggies and give it away to the homeless and low-income families in our area. It’s a ton of work, but so worth it to think that we give away more than a ton of healthy organic food to our neighbors every year!
With 300,000 houses of worship in the U.S., think of the difference we could make!