God wants his children to eat, and eat well. The vision in Deuteronomy 8 is powerful: “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land...a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing...You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God” (vv.7-10).
Unfortunately, access to good food is an ongoing need around the world. In the international regions where we work, malnutrition and nutrient deficiency are rampant. In the US, rates of obesity, diabetes, and forms of cancer related to dietary habits are rising at an alarming rate. These problems won’t resolve themselves. They require intentional, concentrated effort.
We’re doing our best to be a part of the needed response. This year, we’re expanding our agricultural efforts at Hopewell Farms, our model food production plot at our headquarters in Tennessee. We are not only increasing our crop production, we also want to educate people, empowering them to take responsibility for their own health. I had the opportunity to sit down with Geoff Hartnell, manager of Hopewell Farms, to hear more about the vision for Hopewell Farms.
Hopewell Farms underwent a name change from its previous title Hopewell Gardens recently. What’s the significance?
A garden has connotations of something small and is limited in both space and diversity. A farm, on the other hand, can have a wide range of operations. This shift in titling encompasses our efforts to expand into livestock management, flower and herb production, and more. Plus, we doubled the size of our previous garden.
Hopewell Farms shifted locations this spring - no small feat. Why did you move and what lessons have you learned along the way?
We moved our farm beds to a new location to provide more room to expand our production. Since last fall we have more than doubled our farm size, expanding from thirty-six 50-foot beds to eighty-five! The expanded plot allows for further training of our personnel as well an increased yield of crops.
It was a huge undertaking to move the farm, but I’ve been blown away by the response of our employees and volunteers to rise to the occasion. I’ve seen the power of people trusting one another and really taking responsibility and authority to make this succeed.
In addition to expanding in farm land, you’ve also expanded in personnel. Tell us about that.
We often say, our greatest resource is our people. Since last fall, we’ve hired six new employees for Hopewell Farms. For a while it was just two of us and we were relying on a lot of volunteer service. Having eight employees has given us a huge boost in productivity. The people who have been hired aren’t simply doing this as a job. They care about food production; they care most of all about the people on the other end of all this. God is raising up agricultural leaders here. It’s exciting to be a part of it.
What are you most excited about in the coming months for Hopewell Farms?
I love getting people connected to the ground through education. This summer we’re holding monthly seminars on topics like nutrition education, food preservation, medicinal uses of certain plants, how to make healthy meals from farm fresh produce, and more! We’ve already hosted a few and it’s so exciting to see people learning and taking responsibility for the food they’re eating.
What’s your biggest motivation on the day to day?
The kids! We have a lot of kids that will be on the farm this summer through programs like Workwell, SLAM, and Camp Skillz. With all of the awful things happening in food production in our world, seeing kids learn how to sustainably produce food is something really powerful. Cultivating their curiosity and imagination in regards to food production is a wonderful process to be a part of.
For someone interested in getting more involved with Hopewell Farms, what’s the best way to get started?
There’s so many ways to get involved! Our educational seminars are open to the public and held 1-2 times a month. If you want to volunteer, you can fill out this form to get started. We have volunteer tracks available where you can choose a specific topic or skill you’d like to learn in your volunteer hours. We’d love to have you!