By Marqus A. Cole, Esq.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers in this his harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-28, ESV)
As Jesus went out proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom of God, his compassion for the crowds inspired him to teach his disciples through the imagery of harvest. Similarly, in Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus seeks to reveal the secrets of the Kingdom, he turns to the parable of the four soils.
Jesus challenges his followers, asking, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?”
As contemporary followers of Jesus, our connection to–and understanding of–the relationship between the “Lord of the harvest” and our daily bread remains important. Today, the Farm Bill presents a unique opportunity for Christ followers in America to marry good theology with good policy and support flourishing life and stewardship of God’s creation.
Every five years, the policymakers that we elect and send to Washington create and fund the Farm Bill, a sweeping piece of legislation that has a “tremendous impact on farming livelihoods, how food is grown, and what kinds of foods are grown.”
Additionally, local partnerships like the one between my home church, Grace Snellville Church in metro Atlanta, and Fresh Harvest serve as a witness to the critical relationship between our food and our faith.
Fresh Harvest is a pioneering force in Georgia's local food movement, dedicated to delivering the freshest, organic produce right to our doorsteps. Grounded in a deep-seated commitment to community and sustainability, Fresh Harvest's values are the driving force behind their operations.
Fresh Harvest focuses on fostering direct connections between consumers and small, family-owned organic farms, contributing to a vibrant, local agricultural economy. By prioritizing local sourcing and beyond-organic standards, Fresh Harvest has made a significant impact on growers, ensuring they have a consistent market for their produce and supporting the growth of sustainable farming practices that enrich both the soil and the surrounding communities.
The story between Grace Snellville and Fresh Harvest starts, and runs through, local lead pastor Jon Stallsmith wanting to see his congregation live out their values of following Jesus well in their neighborhoods and nations.
Pastor Stallsmith wanted to explore what working with Fresh Harvest could look like if Grace provided access to high quality, sustainably sourced and locally grown produce to a community otherwise reliant on supermarket chains. Research shows that even the “entry of new supermarkets has only a limited effect on shoppers' purchasing patterns,” failing to significantly reduce nutritional inequality. A partnership with Fresh Harvest, however, provides a different kind of solution.
Members of Grace Snellville’s congregation and the local community receive a blessing from the church being a drop-off and pick-up location for community supported agriculture (CSA).
Working with fresh harvest also provides blessings for local growers. Working with Fresh Harvest nourishes the community with wholesome produce while also sowing seeds of stability for local growers. By guaranteeing a dependable outlet for their harvest, Fresh Harvest ensures that farmers can cultivate their land with the confidence that their yields will reach eager tables, fostering a symbiotic relationship that roots the value of each crop in the security and success of the local agricultural economy.
Supporting a conservation-forward Farm Bill is another way for Christ followers throughout the country to bless local growers and sustainable agriculture practices. In the most current version of the bill, $6 billion has been set aside in annual conservation funding to improve soil health, increase water quality, conserve wildlife habitats, and harness the power of God’s creation to build resilience to climate-fueled extreme weather and lock away soil-enriching carbon. Policies supported by this funding can lead to more sustainable harvest and better outcomes for growers and the land itself.
Grace Snellville saw the value in blessing local growers when we partnered with Fresh Harvest in the Spring of 2022 to run a pilot for our church staff. The pilot was so successful that by the holiday season of 2022, Fresh Harvest founder Zac was on stage with Grace’s lead pastor inviting the entire congregation to join in blessing local growers.
Since then, Fresh Harvest has been at several ministry fairs signing up congregants to live out their faith values with their fork and spoon. The partnership with Grace Snellville has even allowed Fresh Harvest to start home deliveries in the community where before it was not feasible.
While it is true that most Christian communities around the country can’t partner with Fresh Harvest directly, they absolutely can live out their faith values by seeking out local CSA’s and contacting their federal policymakers to ask them to support sound Farm Bill policies.
Finding a local CSA has never been easier for Christians who are interested in supporting local growers. Your church or faith community can also help reduce childhood hunger during the summer months through several new and expanded USDA Summer Nutrition programs. Express your interest and learn more here. Finally, EEN has also made it simple for you to let your policymakers know that we need a conservation-forward Farm Bill to help our farmers grow in resilience to climate-fueled extreme weather, advance food security for families in need, and ensure all growers who want to access support for advancing sustainable agriculture practices can.
Jesus taught his followers to recognize the Kingdom of God at hand with the imagery of a harvest. Two thousand years later, Christians at a local church are still discovering the power of living out that wisdom, and our partnership with Fresh Harvest serves as a witness to policymakers about the power and benefits of supporting local growers and sustainable agriculture practices.