An old, weather-beaten farmhouse defies the wind’s frenzied rush over the fields to the west of Upland. Situated on a westward facing hill, this small, community-supported farm and ministry center seeks to heal the land and people by modeling sustainable agricultural practices and ministering to those who are hurting. The honors program spent a Saturday morning at this farm, known as Victory Acres, in the spirit of sustainability and service learning. During this time we helped to erect a new hothouse, worked in the current greenhouse, readied seedlings to be planted, made preparations for a barn raising, and ate fruit smoothies and eggs.
Spending the morning outdoors at the farm was invigorating and very enjoyable despite the bitterly cold weather. There is something special about working with the earth that calms one’s spirit and compels a change in perspective. It is so easy to become disconnected in our modern environment from the things of the earth that were essential to the survival of our ancestors only a short time ago. Our climate-controlled rooms and highly developed systems for supplying every need or want cause us to forget how wild and complex and wonderful the world really is. Even a morning at a farm was enough to remind us of the more fundamental aspects of our collective existence – like our dependence on the food that the earth yields and vulnerability to the elemental forces of nature.
The opportunity to implement what we have been learning through service was a welcome opportunity. Going to the farm helped us to overcome a second disconnect between knowing and doing. Living sustainability means ordering one’s life a certain way, taking action to implement what you know. In the absence of action, one must question whether the lesson has been learned after all.
The trip was also a great opportunity to spend time with people away from the distractions of our contemporary existence. Our shared task gave us an element of commonality that allowed us to bond through the activity. If C.S. Lewis’ comparison of friendship to two people walking side by side toward the same goal is accurate, it seems like such a setting is bound to strengthen friendship’s ties. In this sense the work we did at Victory Acres helped us to overcome the things that divide us as people in day-to-day life.
The theme should be obvious by now. Working at Victory Acres gave us the opportunity to surmount the barriers between modern man and nature, learning and doing, and one another. The entire experience, from the farm fresh breakfast to the activities, was wholesome in every sense of the word. This kind of endeavor is also the most sustainable since tension results when we live apart from God’s earth, people, and action motivated by what we know. The trip to Victory Acres was a good reminder of these things and an equally important exercise in their practice.