Feeding Body and Soul: How Growing Our Food Enhances Spirituality

Feeding Body and Soul: How Growing Our Food Enhances Spirituality

I am what some would call a cradle Episcopalian.  I was raised a member of Bethesda By The Sea Episcopal church in Palm Beach, Florida; and have spent my adult life a part of the family of St. Christopher’s in Cozad, Nebraska.

My faith has grown and evolved as my life took me from South Florida to the prairies of Nebraska...
My faith has grown and evolved as my life took me from South Florida to the prairies of Nebraska...

 

While I am a regular church goer, the heart of my spirituality lies outside of the doors of the church building.  It is deeply rooted in nature and is an integral part of my adult life.

  • It is present on my cattle farm and in my vegetable garden.
  • It is present in the volunteer work that I do to improve animal (cattle) welfare.
  • It is present on the youth athletic fields where I mentor and coach.
  • They depend on me---a large part of my faith is offering the best care to them...
    They depend on me--my faith drives me to offer them good care...

Last November, I was asked to share my thoughts on the topic Feeding the Body and the Soul: A look at how we grow food and spirituality in Central Nebraska at the 145th Annual Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska.  This speaking opportunity catapulted me into serious thought about my faith and how it is tied to my days of raising animals and growing food.

God's paintbrush is evident as fall prevails on the prairie...
God's paintbrush is evident during fall on the prairie...

 

While I am very open and transparent about how I raise cattle and grow beef on my farm, I tend to hold my faith in a more private place.  Despite that introverted tendency, I “take God with me” on my life journey.

There is something about wide open spaces and farming that lends itself to being closely tied to faith.  Perhaps it is the beauty of a sunset over the plains…Perhaps it is the feeling of intense pride and contentment that comes from growing things with your own two hands…Perhaps it is the feeling of helplessness that comes from witnessing the brutality of Mother Nature…Most likely, it is all of these things that lends a farmer toward a strong personal spirituality.

The quiet beauty of winter on the prairie sometimes hides the harshness of Mother Nature...
The quiet beauty of winter on the prairie sometimes blinds you to the harshness of Mother Nature...

 

I have a sign in one of my gardens that reads: The kiss of the sun for pardon; The song of the birds for mirth.  One is nearer God’s heart in a garden, than any place else on the earth.  Being at one with nature, whether we are digging in our gardens or growing animals to nourish our families brings a sense of fulfillment like no other.

I feel a beautiful sense of purpose on my farm---using the resources that God gifted me with to grow food for those I love.
I feel a beautiful sense of purpose on my farm---using the resources that God gifted me to grow food for those I love.

 

There are times when I am exercising calves in the early morning light when I feel a comforting presence about me.  I feel peace, and with it a strong sensation that I am where I was meant to be.  When I think of what I desire most in the world as a parent, it is that my children will grow up to realize a vocation that brings them this sense of “rightness”.

I
Teaching them to respect and care for the land and the animals that are on our farm fuels my faith and brings joy to my soul...

 

It is true that Nebraska is an enormous contributor to our country’s food supply.  Agriculture is the heart of our communities, our lives, and our economy.  If our rural “Fly Over State” is known for anything, it is for corn, crops and cattle.  But food is grown and enjoyed all over the world, not just in my beloved Cornhusker state.

With the gift of rain and moisture, spring and summer on the prairie bring the countryside alive with life and growth...
With the gift of ample moisture, spring and summer on the prairie bring the countryside alive with life...

Many of us play a role in growing food---from large farms to small back yard gardens.  The simple act of using our hands to produce life and nourishment fuels our soul.  Growing food gives us purpose and builds our faith.  That spirituality moves us forward in good times and in times of challenge. It unites us into a unique family creating a sense of community that transcends traditional boarders .

As we delve into 2013, strive to get in touch with where your food comes from.  Grow a garden, reach out to a local farmer, develop virtual relationships with bloggers who grow food, be grateful for the nourishment that fuels both our bodies and our souls...

Spirituality blossoms amidst the bounty that our land produces…

~Anne Burkholder

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