Last month, LFG’s Kathy Ruhf participated in a remarkable gathering of about 30 faith leaders and sustainable agriculture advocates at Paicines Ranch in California. Faithlands was convened by the Greenhorns and Agrarian Trust to explore the potential for lands held by faith communities to be made available for farming. After the three days together, many participants felt that something deeper and more far-reaching had occurred.
Leaders from various faith communities and US regions brought a common ethic of land stewardship, and shared their unique ways of caring for the land, farmers, and their communities. Some of the participants are actively engaged in farm projects, and all the faith community representatives use food and agriculture to communicate about fundamental religious themes and pressing contemporary issues.
The conversation ranged from spiritual contemplation of earth stewardship and social justice to the practicalities of inventorying church-owned land and creating good lease agreements. Sister Chris Loughlin from Crystal Spring Center in eastern Massachusetts talked about how they—with technical support from Land For Good—provided a farming opportunity for a new farmer on their property. A Florida farmer shared his experience on land leased from a local church. These were two of several real-world examples of how faith-based entities can “walk the talk.”
Together, the group explored the urgent land access needs of young farmers, how to engage church leaders and members in making land available for farming, and the challenges of navigating church institutions. What emerged from the convening was a shared commitment to take specific action steps, underpinned by an “agrarian spirituality” that embraced the beliefs and practices of individual faith communities as well as those of the attending farmers, agro-foresters, environmental lawyers, land trust staff and farm support organizations such as Land For Good.