July 3, 1996

Become A Farmer: The Importance of Cultivating Deep Roots

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“Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

I have a profound admiration of farmers. Their work, which uniquely joins in God’s creative activity, requires a remarkable collection of skills and virtues. They are patient. They hold fast to an unparalleled work ethic, while simultaneously embracing a relaxed view of God’s sovereignty—weather is the weather, the sun is the sun. They take great care in farming not only the plant we see, but also the root that supports it. They practice daily rhythms and cycles in their own lives and work, while also observing the rhythm and cycles of God’s creation.
As the poet Wendell Berry puts it, farmers farm “for the love of farming.” A farmer friend, once told a story that beautifully captured this love. He was out driving his tractor in the alfalfa fields and came upon a lone, scared fawn. He stopped his tractor, hopped down, picked up the quivering creature and returned to his tractor. And there he sat holding the frightened and lost animal on his tractor, on a Maryland mountainside alfalfa field.
“I loved it,” he said and then flashed a toothy grin. “It was just me and God and one of his beautiful little creatures.”
I love the pure love and trust a farmer embodies. The agrarian life forces him to rely on the fruits of the land, nurtured and produced by elements he can’t control. Does anyone take bigger risks on a daily basis? When Jesus told the parable of the talents, it was the worker who risked the most who then received the biggest reward.
The farmer is like one of his own plants—a blueberry bush perhaps. The roots of which rely solely on the rains and sunshine to fill them with enough strength and nourishment to bloom, to fill up with life and turn blue, rendering a delicious crop. The farmer realizes his roots—like those of the blueberry bush—must be nourished, cared for and cultivated, fertilized and fed.
What if we all operated with that level of trust and lived at peace with the inherent risk that comes from daily relying on something beyond ourselves? What if we could all endure the hardships of fierce winter storms and 4AM wake ups during the farming season?
I wish I could be more like my farmer friend holding the fawn, spreading out my personal roots with each daily act of trust and commitment, of servitude and grace.

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