Program Profiles: Food, Faith and Spirituality

Meet organizations giving shape to the food, faith and spirituality movement from New Jersey to North Carolina.

When it comes to faith groups engaged in agriculture, there are few generalizations that apply. What follows is an eclectic bunch of examples that speak to the diversity and creativity to be found in this movement: 

Genesis Farm — Caldwell, New Jersey
In 1980, Miriam Therese MacGillis and the Sisters of St. Dominic started Genesis Farm, which soon became one of the first CSA’s in the country. Since those early days, they have slapped up solar panels, started an Earth literacy program, and taught workshops on the Transition Town movement. In 2007 Grist magazine named MacGillis one of the world’s top 15 green religious leaders. Genesis Farm “is rooted in a belief that the Universe, Earth, and all reality are permeated by the presence and power of that ultimate Holy Mystery that has been so deeply and richly expressed in the world’s spiritual traditions.”

Adamah Farm —Falls Village, Connecticut
One of the first and certainly the largest of such programs, Adamah is a key player in the Jewish agrarian revival. A three-month leadership training program for Jewish young adults, Adamah is located at the Isabella Freedman Center, where soil care goes hand in hand with soul care. The program integrates organic farming, sustainable living, and contemplative Jewish spiritual practice. Each summer this 6-acre farm trains up a crop of young people, helping them reconnect their Jewish faith with the land and teaching them the practice of tikkun olam, literally “repairing the world.” As their website says, “Where else can you say a blessing while using recycled vegetable oil to fuel a truck that is filled with organic produce and naturally fermented kosher pickles?”

The Lord’s Acre
—Fairview, North Carolina
When a Presbyterian church, Baptist church, and Congregational church in Fairview, NC recognized the need for fresh produce at the local food bank, they joined forces and started a 2-acre organic community garden. Ecumenical in scope (open to people of any faith or creed), the garden now grows thousands of pounds of produce for Manna Food Bank, offers an intern program, and has become a community gathering place.

Goodness Grows —North Lima, Ohio
When the Common Ground church bought an old farm as their property, they inherited greenhouses, outbuildings, and land. Situated in a rural area facing economic decline, they realized that they had the tools to now serve their community. A vision for church-supported farming was born. Their mission is to “share God’s love for people and all of creation by helping others to fight hunger and create opportunity through regenerative agriculture.”

Anathoth Community Garden —Cedar Grove, North Carolina
In 2005, following a murder in this one-stop light town in rural North Carolina, a group of church and community members started a community garden as a way to heal their community. Their vision came from the book of Jeremiah: “plant gardens and eat what they produce,…and seek the peace of the city.” Using a CSA-model, members buy into the garden at $5/year, work two hours/week, and receive a share of the produce. Since 2005 Anathoth has grown rapidly, adding a passive-solar high tunnel, a Heifer International-sponsored youth program, and a series of workshops for other churches wanting to start their own gardens.

Special thanks to Fred Bahnson, author of Soil & Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith.

Updated 8/2014