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Ten years ago, Becca and I packed up a U-Haul and moved our family to the country. That included our two-year-old son Ivar and newborn daughter Elsie, who was nine days old at the closing table (a busy month for Becca). Since then, we’ve added three more “farm hands”, two tractors, a few dozen animals, and a big red barn. Almost from the beginning we’ve had this insatiable desire to share everything we were learning with anyone who would listen. We were completely new at this, and it was thrilling. Every new skill we learned was inspiring. Every new animal a triumph.
So we hosted beekeeping workshops, tree-tapping parties, chicken-butchering days, and gave lots of farm tours. People were eager to come and see for themselves. Hundreds of them, in fact. Eager to learn and do. Eager to meet another family who, like themselves, was looking for a different way forward.
We began sending out a quarterly newsletter, sharing what we were loving and learning from our life in the country. We wrote articles about farming and family and faith, and how those things go quite nicely together. We encouraged others to take the plunge: If we can do it, you can too! And some did.
As we learned and experimented and extolled the virtues of life on the land, something else was happening: we were working together. My job had always provided an income, but there was no way to involve my family in this most central focus of my time. But on the farm, everyone was needed, and everybody worked. Even our little ones had jobs: collecting eggs, planting potatoes, canning tomatoes with mom, or mending fences with dad. The kids named animals and bottle-fed lambs. Mostly they loved doing what we were doing, because we were doing it together.
Not that everyone is suited to farming, but there are many ways in which families can work together given a little bit of inspiration (and much perspiration!). In 2020, I released a book about the topic called Durable Trades: Family-Centered Economies That Have Stood the Test of Time. It is a handbook, of sorts, helping people to discover more family-oriented, stable professions in a time of continuous upheaval. Since its publication we have received hundreds of letters from families who are starting their own home economies or looking for support and encouragement to do so.
Last summer we invited families to our farm for an event called The Grovestead Gathering. Over 100 people came from as far away as Ohio to learn about creating productive households with their families. We presented workshops, sang hymns, shared meals, and encouraged each other. A few families even brought tents and camped overnight on our property.
At the end of the gathering one father shared,
It was after this in-person event that we knew we had a unique ministry opportunity. It is clear that people are hungry for a different way to live and work. They don’t want to spend the majority of their waking lives separated from their families. They want to disciple their sons and daughters as they work together. And they want to meet others who are walking a similar path.
This weekend proved to be a holy time for husbands and wives to break away from their normal routines and consider what they are ultimately working towards. We can all see that the days ahead will require strong households, with “hearts fixed, trusting in the Lord.” We have no doubt that it is these families who will be salt and light in their communities, who will build resilient households and preserve knowledge for future generations. And we want to spend the rest of our lives pouring into them.
We have started a new non-profit called Gather & Grow Ministries with the goal of helping other families build their own family economies and become better prepared for the days that are ahead. Our name reflects what we do: Gather people and Grow things. Gather families, gather friends, gather communities in order to grow food, grow skills, grow relationships, and grow faith.
If any of this resonates with you, we would love to have you join us. You can learn more about our ministry at gatherandgrow.us.