It’s only been within the last couple hundred years that farming has become such a commodity-driven business. Industry and technology have changed the landscape of agriculture significantly. Some of those changes have been for good—farmers are able to generate crops that yield more food per acre than ever before. But some of those technological advancements that produced short-term gains also yielded long-term losses, as croplands and grasslands turn to deserts and dust, soil nutrients become depleted, and ag practices exacerbate the balance of local ecosystems.
While the 24-hour news cycle worries over the uptick in severe weather, some farmers are quietly and faithfully subverting the narrative, growing hope and bountiful harvests from dry lands.
To Which We Belong
The 2021 documentary, To Which We Belong, follows several farmers and ranchers from around the globe who have adopted regenerative soil management, no-till planting, crop rotation, and other best practices that sustained the health of our soil for millennia in order to fight back against and even reverse the effects of desertification, floods, and other destructive results of climate change in their communities.
Taking lessons from soil scientists and nature itself, farmers are recognizing the power of the soil to pull carbon back into the land, balance ecosystems, and generate food that is more nutrient-rich and tastier than its monoculture counterparts. These practices aren’t just good for the planet, they’re good for people. The solutions are right in front of us.
“The way we grow food right now can be a solution to climate change. It’s a win-win-win scenario for farmers, society, and the world.”
Finding the Love: Faithifying Your Viewing
In the ancient book of Job, Job and his friends seek answers for suffering. They want to know why the storms of life have taken Job’s children, his land, his livelihood, and his health. There has to be a reason for all of this suffering. Bildad the Shuhah was one of the friends who offered Job counsel.
We’ll call him Bill.
“Put the question to our ancestors,” Bill told Job. “Study what they learned from their ancestors. For we’re newcomers at this, with a lot to learn, and not too long to learn it. So why not let the ancients teach you, tell you what’s what, instruct you in what they knew from experience?” (Job 8:8-10 MSG)
Bill pointed Job to the wisdom of the ancestors.
In much the same way, we have forgotten the way of our ancestors and their ancestors before them. We traded efficiency and productivity for quality and conservation, and now, the land and our harvests pay for it.
“Can mighty pine trees grow tall without soil? Can luscious tomatoes flourish without water? Blossoming flowers look beautiful before they’re cut or picked, but without soil or water they wither more quickly than grass” (Job 8:11-12 MSG).
Bill’s point wasn’t regarding soil restoration, crop rotation, or no-till planting practices; he wanted to point Job back to his forefathers to see their example, how the patriarchs of our faith put their hope in God.
These hypothetical questions were obvious to anyone reading. Of course a pine tree can’t grow tall without soil! Of course tomatoes can’t flourish without water! Our ancestors knew these things and worked with the land to keep it nourished and alive.
Today, soil scientists, climate scientists, and conservationists alike are discovering anew what the ancients knew by instinct: a balanced ecosystem is a flourishing ecosystem. In order to produce the best food products, we need to work with nature, not fight against nature.
As God’s image bearers, we need to remember what the ancients knew by heart: It is our sole duty and responsibility to tend and care for creation. It was given to us as our first job description. God clearly loves his creation. After everything he created, he called it “good.”
After Job’s friends had exhausted all of their explanations for why Job was suffering, God answered. “Where were you when I created the earth?” God asked. “Who came up with the blueprints and measurements? … And who took charge of the ocean when it gushed forth like a baby from the womb? That was me! I wrapped it in soft clouds, and tucked it in safely at night. Then I made a playpen for it, a strong playpen so it couldn’t run loose” (Job 38:1-11 MSG).
God proceeded, for four long chapters, to articulate just how much he knows about and cares for his creation. If God cares for his creation this much, God’s image bearers probably ought to as well.
To Which We Belong showcases what happens when farmers all over the world return to their roots, return to their first job description: creation care.
“God turned rivers into wasteland,
springs of water into sunbaked mud;
Luscious orchards became alkali flats
because of the evil of the people who lived there.
Then he changed wasteland into fresh pools of water,
arid earth into springs of water,
Brought in the hungry and settled them there;
they moved in—what a great place to live!
They sowed the fields, they planted vineyards,
they reaped a bountiful harvest.
He blessed them and they prospered greatly;
their herds of cattle never decreased”
When God’s image bearers partner with God to care for creation, their harvests multiply, and they prosper. The words of Job and of the psalmists were true then, and they’re true still today.