Born Again Dirt: Farming to the Glory of God by Noah Sanders was published a few months ago, and I devoured it immediately. I don’t consider myself a writer, and so it has taken me a while to review it. (Sounds like a strange thing to say for someone with a blog, but my posts are more a chronicle of what I do, that don’t require a lot of writing skill). But the book is frequently on my mind, and I thought it valuable enough to force myself to do it.
Noah is young, in his early 20’s, I presume, and is himself thinking out how to farm in a way that gives glory to God. He does this without dogma or legalism, although that is not to say that he is without opinion. He makes good observations regarding one’s worldview and how that affects one’s method of farming. (Noah defines farming as “a piece of land – regardless of size – that an individual is responsible for.”)
For example, industrial farming reflects a worldview “whose ultimate source of wisdom is science”. He sees this method as fruitful, but not sustainable. And, Noah says, environmental agriculture reflects a worldview that worships nature; this method is sustainable, but not fruitful. He wanted his farming methods to reflect his biblical worldview. His dirt needed to be “born again”.
He concludes that the biblical worldview of farming is to be “sustainably fruitful”. I wholeheartedly agree that God desires our farming methods to be both fruitful and sustainable. Environmentalism, and perhaps some farming methods of the past have been unfruitful. But I’m not sure that I see the present organic farming movement as just sustainable, and not fruitful. When I think of organic farmers like Michael Phillips in New Hampshire, Eliott Coleman in Maine, Sepp Holzer in Austria, and Joel Salatin in Virginia, I see both the face of modern day organic farming and much fruitfulness.
Noah says much that I have believed, but have only recently heard other Christian writers say (ie. Joel Salatin). But he has also opened my eyes to new ideas. This young man is a breath of fresh air! I don’t know of another book on farming/gardening that has both practical, how-to information and shows us that God cares about our hearts as we farm. He says, “If we want to glorify God we must be Christian farmers, not just farmers who are Christians.” He takes 1 Corinthians 10:31 seriously and believes that “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” includes farming.
In order to be better stewards of our land, Noah recommends walking our property with the Owner. He suggests that we give the Lord a tour and an accounting of how we have cared for His possessions. During this tour, he suggests that we repent of failures, and talk to God about problems we are experiencing.
Praying in my garden comes very naturally to me. Perhaps all that kneeling is just conducive to prayer? But, I have to tell you, I never once thought to show God around my yard, or even talk to him about that area that is flooded after a rain and bone dry the rest of the time. Or about the slugs that are eating my broccoli. But now I find myself asking Him if and where we should plant apple trees, or how to protect our garden from forecasted hail. Honestly, the book, to me, is worth the price for that one piece of advice alone.