Farming is an occupation that requires continual learning. As we seek to steward the land God has given us, we are constantly presented with challenges . . . new weather patterns, pests and diseases, changing markets, etc. The question we must face is, where do we go to find answers to our problems?
To be honest, my first reaction is typically to run to my library of ‘farming’ books and see what I can find out. Then maybe the internet. And if that doesn’t work I might humble myself enough to go to another farmer, admit I am having problems, and seek advice.
But as a follower of Jesus Christ, as a born-again farmer, what should my first response be? Where is the source of all wisdom, including all farming wisdom, found? Well, obviously it is found in God, but for some reason I don’t think that I need to run to Him first whenever I need wisdom. James 1:5,6 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
Do I really think that God will give me wisdom when I ask Him? Or do I merely offer up a token prayer before going out in my own strength to find answers, instead of in faith? It is this doubt that cripples my ability to find the wisdom I need to do what God has called me to. But thankfully, God often takes us to the very end of ourselves, where we have exhausted all our other sources, in order to teach us to look to Him.
I shared in a previous post that Foundations for Farming founder, Mr. Brian Oldreive, lost his farm due to his conviction to give up growing tobacco. From there, he went on to become the manager of a failing farm where he faced many challenges. But as he turned to God for answers, instead of to his own wisdom, he was given solutions that produced dramatic results. Here, again, is his story in his own words
“For a long time we couldn’t find a job, but eventually we got a job managing Hinton Estate in Mutepatepa, north of Harare (Zimbabwe). When we arrived at this farm, it too was in financial difficulty. On this farm the common practice was to plough very deeply after having burnt off all the stover from the previous crop. This caused the soil structure to
break down and large clods, the size of footballs, were being ploughed up, which then had to be broken down with two harrowings and two rollings, which was very expensive. The soil structure had collapsed resulting in water running off the surface and the topsoil washing away. Our costs were rising steeply, while our yields were going down and we were going out of business again. I turned to God in desperation for a solution to our problems. I would go into the virgin bush for times of prayer and one day God began to reveal to me His ways in nature (Romans 1:19-22). There I saw that there is no mechanism in nature in which the soil is inverted and that there is a thick blanket of fallen leaves and grass which covers the surface of the soil. I realized that these two factors in nature prevented the soil from being washed away. I had heard something about Zero Tillage, which had started in the Great Dust Bowl of Texas in the 1930s and spread to Europe, South America and Australia. It had been introduced into Africa in the early 70s and so I approached the research Community to ask them how we could implement the system. They told me that they had tried it but it didn’t work because it wasn’t feasible for our region; however, I was in such a desperate situation that I thought that I must try and God gave me the faith to launch out. I decided that as I began to experiment with this system, I would not allow it to fail from lack of good management. So I decided to begin small with just one hectare of maize planted into wheat straw to the highest standards possible. All we used was a small work force using a hoe to make planting holes straight into the wheat straw from the previous crop. The results on this small portion were so much better than the rest of the crops under conventional tillage that I had the faith to expand the area under Zero Tillage to two hectares. This was again so successful that we expanded it further to one full land the following year and within six years the whole farm of 1,000 hectares was under Zero Tillage. The success of the system resulted in profits every year and we were able to buy up surrounding farms until in 1995 we were growing 3,500 hectares under mechanized Zero Tillage.”
Through seeking the wisdom of God and applying it by faith (many people thought he was crazy for not plowing) Mr. Brian set national yield records and eventually was banned from entering contests because he always won. But he gave all the glory to God.
God has revealed Himself through the Scriptures and through Creation. He has given us creative minds and access to the experience and creativity of others. These are all things that He can use to show us wisdom. He has shown me many things through books, the internet, and conversations with others. But it is when I begin to look to these things in and of themselves as a source of wisdom that I begin to be in danger of applying worldly wisdom instead of Godly wisdom. Even today, as we go about our work, may we walk humbly with God and look to Him first and foremost as the source of the wisdom and strength we need to steward His land for His Glory.
Beautiful crops grown using Mr. Brian’s no-plowing, mulch system.