We were on our honeymoon in Scotland, traveling on a bus to Melrose Abbey, a 900-year-old Cistercian abbey south of Edinburgh. Watching the green glens roll by, we saw sheep and farms dominate our view out the window. One of us turned to the other and said, “Wouldn’t that be nice to do one day? We could teach our grandkids how to bake real bread. We could make our own beer and cheese.” A retirement dream.
Sometime later whilst taking a Family Ministry class for seminary, I read about how for the greater part of our existence parents have taught their children directly rather than outsourcing it to someone else’s responsibility. Children worked with their parents, learning life skills and trades, and were discipled by them. It is much different today. While we work out of the home our kids learn out of the home. Even their spiritual learning is outsourced to youth groups at best. We decided we wanted to reclaim our responsibility for our own (future) children and create an environment where we could spend as much time with them as possible, teaching them everything from biology to theology. Not out of some sense of fear, but because we are primarily responsible for their learning, growing, health, and discipleship. This coincided with my call to ministry: to know Jesus and make him known.
Not long after we asked ourselves, “Why are we waiting for retirement?” and then threw everything we had into learning about farming and pursuing this dream. Both of us grew up in the ‘burbs, and while I have an agriculture degree, it isn’t in production. Yet this idea has been unshakeable for us. We see Genesis 1:28, commonly called the Cultural Mandate, as the first commission of God. Be fruitful and multiply, governing over creation, bringing God’s image to bear upon it. Enjoy it and help others enjoy it. That also means we can’t enjoy it if we destroy it.
Along the way we discovered several things:
- I actually like tomatoes. They taste better when you grow them yourself, because then you grow them for flavor and not for transportation.
- Our desire to be good stewards of our natural resources to honor God was a bridge builder with communities that do not share that same religious value. Relationships were built, values were shared.
- We feel better when we eat cleaner.
- We waste an obscene amount of food and water every day. One stat at the linked article says over half our food is just thrown away. And why do we use potable water for flushing toilets?
- There exists pockets in the city called food deserts where people lack the ability to obtain or afford quality food.
I think there are better ways, and we want to be about those ways, because I think they honor God better. What if this whole missional farm thing isn’t just for our kids, but for our community? In fact Melrose Abbey itself was a mission of the Cistercians, who farmed and provided for the community around them. Could we not do the same? Thus, our farm is a vehicle for discipleship, cultural engagement, relationship building, and of course good food.
That is how Watson Abbey was born. Come join us as we eat, drink, and be merry with neighbors.