I work at a Christian organization, Good Works, that builds community with the widows, the orphans and the strangers of southeastern Ohio through various programs and means. We have several acres of land on our property and we want to develop it into a farm. We are looking to expand our gardens, have animals, and possibly even have a field of crops. I am leading this initiative and I want to do it in a way that is true to its purposes; that is, by manual labor and personal responsibility which wean oneself off the systems of oppression which we are dependent upon. Farming, then, is a way in which Good Works as an organization will work towards addressing the social sins that harm people and prohibit the kingdom of God from manifesting.
And so, I came to St. Francis Farm to find people who used sustainable and organic farming methods and who lived by the Catholic Worker principles of voluntary poverty and manual labor. I came to experience farm life from people who were concerned about the poor and who lived independently from the current systems which oppress them. I also came to rest and refresh my spirit after a long, hard summer of work. I found all this in the Hoyt family—hard working and dedicated folks quick to invite me into their way of life.
I learned that farming life is difficult but not idyllic or impossible. I saw that it is done best in a community of people devoted to each other and to the work. And I witnessed how people doing farming in this way must be centered in their relationships with God and sustained on sound agricultural and economic principles. I learned many helpful gardening, planting, composting, animal husbandry, canning, cheese making, and sawmill tips but I gained the most from simply living with the Hoyts, learning from their wisdom and resting in their care.
Through their lives they impressed upon me the meaning of manual labor and the need for it. Before coming I understood the value of work but wasn't able to make the connection that doing the work oneself and doing it right is the way to not support systems of oppression. It is the way to do away with the filthy rotten system and work for a society where it is easier for people to be good. I am thankful for my time at SFF and am grateful for the generous hospitality shown me by the Hoyts. They are and will continue to be an inspiration for me as I continue on in my journey, learning to listen to God and seek justice in all that I do.
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