More Than a Trend: Why We Grow Food

Our bee operation, spearheaded by Jeff Sherrod (pictured above), began last summer with three hives and has now expanded to six. Bees are the world's most important pollinator of food crops, and it is estimated that one third of the food that we consume each day relies on pollination primarily from bees. In addition to pollinating our community garden, our first honey harvest produced over 200 pounds of honey. 

Gardening, particularly organic gardening, is a growing trend in the United States. The number of organic gardeners in America was 5 million in 2004 and 12 million in 2008, and the number has only increased since then. According to the National Garden Association, the main reasons why people are growing their own food includes the benefits of better-tasting food, saving money on food bills, obtaining better quality food, and growing food they know is safe.

For us, food production is about more than tasty, economic, quality, safe food. Producing our own food is part of our effort to reject participation in destructive world systems.

Romans 6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

It’s supposed to take time to prepare a meal. People throughout the world know that. When meals don’t take time, something unnatural has interfered. Despite the rising trend in home gardening, the American food industry and its consumers value fast, convenient food. Unfortunately, the endgame for the industry’s participants, its obedient slaves, is death. A diet of fast, convenient food is killing the American people. To the industry’s designers, the value of a dollar means more than the value of a life.

Seth Davis, Director of Hopewell Gardens, tests the newly installed irrigation system.  Lack of water conservation and storage in the developing world leaves farmers and their families susceptible to drought and famine during dry seasons. Simple, low-cost drip-irrigation systems like this one are believed to be a necessary innovation. 

We don’t want to play that game. If we want to be biblical people, we can’t. We want to be obedient slaves to God and live right. In this scenario, living right has to do with producing and providing real, life-promoting food for ourselves and our neighbors.

Participating in our own food production isn’t just about the food itself. This activity carries with it countless life lessons. Learning how to eat in season reminds us that, outside of climate manipulation at the expense of quality, we are not in control. The food preferences that we, especially in America, hold so dear are being challenged. Our palates are changing as we figure out how to use what we can grow. We’re also learning to be generous, as we’re unable to eat all of the food we’re producing before it rots, and are compelled to share it with our neighbors.

Furthermore, the effort it takes to produce food using limited technology is unifying, as it requires the labor of a whole group of people. Most farmers utilize expensive tractors and machinery to accomplish larger scale operations. Limiting ourselves to low-tech manpower rather than high-tech horsepower in this way makes us rely on human cooperation, and gives everyone involved a feeling of ownership and worthwhile investment. Getting on our knees in the dirt to get our food forces us to acknowledge our position as creature before the Creator (Rom 1:20). Being connected to the ground is a humbling and often vulnerable place to be. We understand each good crop to be part of the Lord’s blessing (Deut 7:9-19).

This 12-tank water storage system was recently completed in order to catch rainwater for use in Hopewell Gardens. We use our land and resources as a test site for the projects we hope to implement in the regions we serve worldwide.

In addition to fruit and vegetable production, we have recently expanded our efforts to include raising sheep, beekeeping, and an innovative rainwater catchment system. We also expect to acquire goats and chickens in the near future.  Sheep can be slaughtered for meat and help naturally control grass. Goats require little space, and their milk is closest to humans in regard to its nutritional value. Chickens are used for their meat and eggs, they eat grass and bugs, and green grass gives them omega-3 fatty acids, necessary for normal metabolism. Honey has numerous health and medicinal benefits, including soothing coughs and relieving seasonal allergies, and it’s an excellent sugar substitute in cooking recipes. Our rainwater catchment system holds up to 4,000 gallons of rainwater, and is now fully integrated with our gardens, providing drip irrigation to all of the crops. Learning to harvest rainwater and sustain crops during the dry season can be revolutionary for small farmers in the developing world. The food we grow supports Nyumba Cafe, where the G.O.D. Int’l staff and community gathers to eat meals each week. In addition, we regularly distribute fresh produce to widows in the Hopewell neighborhood, and we also sell weekly at a local farmers market.

In an industry that consistently compromises quality for quantity, we’re putting in the work to make sure we don’t become slaves to unhealthy diets. Rather than being guided by our appetites, we’re making our food serve us and our nutritional needs.