Farming, Godstyle – Following the Sower

Here is an article written for Five Talents webzine, giving testimony to the amazing adventure we have experienced as Christian farmers in Southern Ontario.

ImagePaul has been a farmer since he was a young boy, working his family farm in Ontario, Canada with his brothers and father until 1997, when he purchased a 38 hectare farm, just one mile east of his dad’s.  Paul accepted Jesus Christ as His Lord in 1995 and has never been the same.  Paul and his wife, Jenny have combined their unique talents of farming and writing to share his story:

When I was a kid and I walked our family farm, I enjoyed being on the fields.  It was fun to watch things grow.  As a kid, I could see God in everything.  I didn’t understand who God was but I knew God was there.  When things didn’t work the way we expected, like poor crops or bad weather or animals dying, I just thought that was the way farming is.  Now I know differently.  There are principles to farming which God has set out in the Bible which brings success.  In my journey as a farmer, I have slowly learnt some of these principles, which I call farming, God style.

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In 1997, I learnt my first principle:  Follow the Sower.  I was an electrician at General Motors, farming land which I rented in the area, as well as my dad’s farm, when the Lord nudged me to check out a beautiful farm which was listed for sale one mile east of our farm.  I felt reluctant as I surveyed this new opportunity and marveled as the Lord restore my childhood dream of buying my own farm.  Prices had skyrocketed over farm land in our country, and I had accepted that the only land I might own would be a shared inheritance with my brothers.Mercifully, God had a different plan.  To my surprise, the farmers who owned this property accepted my offering as all the interested buyers suddenly moved on.  If God hadn’t led me to inquire about the farm, I would never have become a landowner.  Success is guaranteed when you follow and obey the Sower of the seed.

As I slowly developed the new farm and my new faith, I came to understand that in the Kingdom, we are called to give as generously as the Sower gives.  In farming, being a good neighbor is necessary for survival.  When your tractor breaks down on a muddy fall day and you are desperate to get the corn in before more showers steal every cent of your profit in drying costs, the kindness of neighbors who take the time to roll out chains and pull out your only equipment is truly appreciated.  I have found that giving whenever the Lord asks, and giving generously guarantees success, whether it be to a stranger or the farmer down the road.  A few years back, when we had a power failure and the farmer two roads over was desperate for a generator, we had no idea we would need his freezer space for our chickens just a few years later.  Giving generously is crucial for farming, God style, as your life is as much a testimony as your crops.

Farming, God-style, requires couragedetour In 2008, when God asked my wife and I to fallow the entire farm, I stubbornly wrestled the decision.  I had faithfully rotated one-seventh of my farm to fallow every year, since giving the land a rest is mandatory for sustainability.  However, this was a different mandate.  God longed to show us that fallowing the land on a seven-year cycle replenished more than just nutrients to the soil.  Fallowing replenishes the farmer, and in doing so, replenishes the farmer’s family.  As I gritted my teeth and obeyed God, there was a long line of farmers driving up the lane, bidding to rent our farmland, since they had heard through the astonished grapevine, that we would be fallowing the whole farm that year.  It took courage to follow God’s law of rest.  I believe that honoring God’s blueprints in the Bible about fallowing, pruning and harvesting, always reaps the greatest measure of success..

In 2009, God prompted us to change direction from traditional cash crop farming to organic farming.  In Canada, cash crop farming involves a continual cycle of tilling the land, planting the treated seed, spraying the land with pesticides and herbicides, adding commercial fertilizers and then harvesting the crops. Often the land is sprayed with a strong herbicide to prepare for the next year’s crop. I had done this all my life, and now my wife urged me to consider a method of farming for which I had no experience and no desire to undertake.  Nevertheless, after much prayer, I left my job at the car plant to farm full-time, opening a large organic vegetable operation, with free-range chickens and grass-fed beef as well as venturing into farm markets all across the Toronto area. The experience was very tough.  Though the farm quickly became well known as a rising organic business, the cost of labour devoured our savings, and after two years, hard decisions had to be made to keep the business profitable.

This last principle is the most important:  When things get rough in farming, and they often do, keep asking God questions and wait until you hear His answers, then do it.

It was painful to let go of our staff, close up the farm market business and end our weekly vegetable bin program which had blessed a hundred and fifty families across our region with chemical-free healthy fruits and vegetables for a twenty week season. It was painful to see my wife seek other employment, knowing her dream had been to walk alongside me in farming and we could no longer afford that option.  As I sought God, I knew He wanted me to keep farming, though  differently.  After considering many options, we chose a pastured operation, as we let the land work for the business, instead of leaching all our resources into labour costs.  Humbly, we let go of the big dream of the big farm business, asking questions from God each step of the way as we transitioned our farm into an organic business based solely on grass-fed meat, sold weekly from our front farm porch store. All through this time and still today, I knew God as Comforter and our Provider.  He doesn’t change even when we must to grow forward.

farm logoToday, our farm business is very successful and we give God all the credit.  Families both locally and across southern Ontario make the trek to Svetec Farms on Fridays or Saturdays to speak with me about the food crisis we are facing and the need for healthy eating.  We have heard their gratitude that we farm with simplicity and integrity, raising our animals on organic pasture and feeding them only the oats and peas and barley we plant every season.  My wife is now enjoying the freedom to write as well as working off farm, while I farm full-time, following the Sower, and enjoying the peace that comes from His presence.

Organic farming or traditional farming both yield different measures of success. Yet true success in farming, God-style, comes from a close partnership with Jesus.  As I humbly apply the principles of His Word, I enjoy the comfort of His love, as I follow the Sower and enjoy the increase in the bountiful fields He sows.

I hope you enjoyed the story of our grace wrestle in farming.

Have you had to change direction in your life?  How did God help you with the detour?

Did you arrive at the destination you expected?

What have you learned to do, God-style?