As we continually adjust to new and evolving social norms, Bellwether Farm remains committed to its vocation to teach about environmental fidelity, physical and spiritual wellness, nutrition, local food sourcing, and social justice. In that spirit, we invite you to join our newest initiative: The Bellwether Book Club. Even while we are distanced socially and geographically, this is an opportunity to come together intellectually and spiritually, and further grow the Bellwether community.
As summer arrives, it is our intention to offer a variety of reading experiences, each one culminating in an online event related to that particular book. Some will be offered to adults, some to youth and young adults, and others to intergenerational participants. All are intended to deepen the love of reading and connect more fully with God’s creation and our responsibility to care for it. Please watch the video below for your invitation to the first one!
We had a great first installment of the Bellwether Book Club on July 28 featuring
Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith
by Fred Bahnson
In a 2016 interview, author Fred Bahnson said that he wanted to write about “how faith communities across the country are re-rooting themselves in the soil: growing gardens, starting farms, and reconnecting with the sources of their nourishment...I chose one community for each season, each community corresponding with a liturgical holiday. That gave me my structure.”
At Bellwether Farm, we strive to provide a strong understanding of the farm’s ecology -- the relationship between everything from worms and soil to bees and flowers. We rely on these relationships to produce food -- worms eating dead plants and creating better soil, bees pollinating flowers and creating honey. It is important that we, as stewards of the land, also understand our own ecological role at Bellwether Farm, and be responsible stewards of all that God has given us. Here, as Mr. Bahnson might argue, is where we are able to view ecology through a theological lens.
His book speaks deeply to many of us here at Bellwether, so much so that it was the obvious choice for our first selection. While the staff at Bellwether Farm eagerly awaits the day when we can welcome everyone back to full, in-person programs and retreats, we hope that reading together Soil and Sacrament
will fill you with the desire to reconnect more deeply with God, each other, and the land. On Tuesday evening, July 28, we will convene at 7 o’clock via Zoom for a live conversation with the author to discuss his book.
When procuring your copy, we strongly encourage you to look first at your local independent bookseller before venturing online. It is important to continue supporting these institutions throughout this difficult time. If you would like to support an independent bookseller, but are having difficulty for any reason, do not hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com
and we will assist however we can.
Please join us as we take this journey through Fred Bahnson’s Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith,
a journey that will help us understand how, just as God stewards the lives of humans, so must we become stewards of the land that we call home.
-- The Bellwether Book Club
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Kirkus Reviews, a renowned American book review magazine founded in 1933, had this to say about Soil and Sacrament:
“A soul-searching memoir and travelogue about finding God in the food produced by community agriculture. Bahnson (co-author: Making Peace with the Land: God's Call to Reconcile with Creation, 2012) was the founder and director of Anathoth, a rich, verdant acre of land owned by his church and used to grow food for its North Carolina community. After several years there, the author was exhausted from defending the project to church members who failed to understand that “Anathoth was not just a hunger relief ministry. It was a whole new way to be a church.” So the author, his wife and their children left the farm for their own piece of land; but once there, Bahnson still felt something was missing from his life. “What does it mean to follow God?” he asked. “How should I live my life? And what does all this have to do with the soil, the literal ground of my existence?” To answer these questions, Bahnson immersed himself in the connections between Judeo-Christian faiths and the burgeoning food movement, while also reflecting upon his life in God. Along the way, he visited a Trappist abbey and Pentecostal organic farmers and celebrated Sukkot on a Jewish farm. Whether he is describing making compost (“I became a priest dispensing the elements to a microbial congregation”) or a “devious, childlike” nonagenarian who doled out “the worst titty-twister [he’d] had since fourth grade,” Bahnson’s lively prose is spiritual without ever being preachy or heavy-handed, and the overall effect is akin to reading a Wendell Berry essay, if Berry also had a sense of humor. Bahnson’s story and its message is constantly, deeply thought-provoking, claiming that working the land with others “reveals the joyful messiness of human life where we find others who need us, and whom we need in return. How we hunger is who we are.” A profound, moving treatise on finding God in gardening.