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Starting a Farm without Experience





Let's start with a connection question. Raise your hand if you have done some growing before. Okay, and raise your hand if you haven't done any growing at all. That's myself too. Anyone here farming commercially? Or looking to start a market garden? Okay, it's good to know who has experience.

This presentation isn't technical. It's not about specific methods or equipment but rather our story and experience. When we started, we had only grown one cherry tomato plant on our windowsill. Our son plucked it, ate it, and that was our entire farming experience. We had no experience, literally.


Why Farming?


On our Christian walk, we reached a stage where we wanted to get closer to God and have more of an experience with Him. We wondered about God's plan for each of us. There were a few Bible texts about God forming us and having a plan for us. That resonated with me because I wondered what God's plan was for me. We began contemplating, "What is it that God would have in store for us?"

Through reading and praying, we realized that God's original occupation for humanity was agriculture. Ellen White wrote, "In God's plan for Israel, every family had a home on the land with sufficient ground for tilling. Thus, He provided both the means and the incentive for a useful, industrious, and self-supporting life. And no devising of men has ever improved upon that plan. To the world's departure from it is owing to a large degree the poverty and wretchedness that exist today" (Ministry of Healing, p. 183).

Another insightful quote from Ellen White further strengthened our resolve to pursue this path: "It was not God's purpose that his people should be crowded into cities, huddled together in terraces and tenements. In the beginning, He placed our first parents in a garden amidst the beautiful sights and attractive sounds of nature" (Country Living, p. 17). This idea resonated deeply with us as we sought a life closer to God's original design.


Our Farming Journey


When we started our journey a couple of years ago, the property we rented came with three acres, including one acre of paddock. After listening to AdAgra presentations on AudioVerse, we asked the landlord if we could use the field for growing crops, and he agreed. The field was full of dock plants (weeds), so we hired a contract farmer to flail, plow, and power-harrow the land.

Initially, we tried to pull out the weeds ourselves, not realizing the seeds had already spread. The contract farmer's work was expensive, and we didn't have the money to pay him. But in a moment of faith, we prayed, and the Lord provided exactly what we needed through an unexpected refund check from the bank.

One memorable instance was when we were running out of money to pay for the contract farmer. After he finished his work, we were worried about how we would pay him. We prayed, asking God to provide. Just then, the postman arrived with a letter containing a check from the bank due to an overcharge. The amount was exactly what we needed to cover the farmer's fees plus tithe. Moments like these reinforced our faith in God's timing and provision.

We made many mistakes. We tried to grow seedlings in our dining room, resulting in leggy, weak plants. We built a plastic hoop house that collapsed in the wind. But we persevered, learned from our mistakes, and prayed constantly for guidance.

Eventually, we invested in a more robust metal tunnel, which withstood the strong Scottish winds. This tunnel became our main growing area. We also experimented with various crops and methods, including weed control fabric and low hoops.

One of our early experiments was using low hoops made from plastic conduit. These were simple to set up and provided a warm microclimate for our plants, but they also had their challenges. The temperature inside these hoops could soar, sometimes reaching over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which was too hot for some plants. We had to slash the plastic to let out some of the heat, learning through trial and error what worked best for our context.


Challenges and Breakthroughs


One of the most significant challenges was growing in a cold, windy climate. But through experimentation and prayer, we found ways to make it work. For example, we successfully grew zucchini and strawberries, learning that strawberries didn't need the high heat we initially provided.

We didn't have much knowledge or experience when we started, so we bought and read many books to educate ourselves. We immersed ourselves in the works of renowned gardeners like Eliot Coleman, Curtis Stone, and Jean-Martin Fortier. Coleman's books on winter growing and four-season harvesting were particularly influential, as they provided practical insights and techniques suited to our challenging climate.

In our first season, we grew a variety of crops including radishes, Bluevates kale, Red Russian kale, and courgettes (zucchini). Our courgettes faced significant challenges from slugs, which devoured many of our plants. However, by God's mercy, some plants grew back, providing us with a bountiful harvest. This experience taught us the importance of perseverance and faith in God's provision.

Our perseverance paid off when the BBC contacted us to feature our farm on a TV show. Despite missing their initial calls, through prayer, we managed to get another opportunity, and they filmed our farm, sharing our story and faith journey with a broad audience.

Throughout our journey, we've seen God's provision in many ways. Whether it was financial support from family members or unexpected blessings like the BBC feature, we learned to trust God completely.


Learning and Growing


We continued to learn and adapt. For instance, our initial efforts to start seedlings indoors failed due to insufficient light, resulting in leggy plants. We then moved to using trays in our newly built tunnel, which provided better conditions and led to healthier seedlings.

We also faced challenges with pests. Slugs were a major problem, devouring many of our young plants. We lost an entire crop of pumpkins within 24 hours due to slugs. Despite these setbacks, we kept experimenting and seeking solutions, always praying for guidance.

Our perseverance in dealing with these challenges helped us develop new strategies and improve our methods. For example, we learned the importance of using organic pest control measures and natural fertilizers. We also realized the significance of crop rotation and soil health in preventing pest infestations and ensuring robust plant growth.


Community and Sharing

Our journey has also been about sharing and community. We started selling our produce in veg boxes, similar to CSAs. While our initial sales were modest, the experience taught us valuable lessons about farming and business.

We also had the opportunity to connect with others who shared our interest in sustainable farming. One day, we met a former agricultural researcher at a local store who encouraged us by sharing his experiences of growing various crops in Scotland's challenging climate.

Through these connections, we received invaluable advice and support, which helped us refine our techniques and expand our knowledge. Being part of a community of like-minded individuals also provided us with moral support and encouragement, which was crucial during tough times.


Faith and Perseverance


Our journey has been a testament to the importance of faith and perseverance. We constantly took our challenges to God in prayer, trusting Him to provide solutions and guidance. This faith was crucial, especially when we faced discouragement from others who doubted our ability to farm successfully in our region.

We also learned to be resourceful, making the most of what we had. For example, we built our own tunnel using metal hoops and scaffolding pipes, which provided the strength needed to withstand strong winds.

Our faith in God's provision and guidance has been our anchor throughout this journey. We learned to trust in His promises, such as Philippians 4:19, "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." This verse became a source of comfort and assurance for us, especially during challenging times.


Linking Agriculture to Salvation

Agriculture isn't just an occupation; it’s deeply connected to our spiritual growth and salvation. Ellen White wrote, "The more nearly we come into harmony with God's original plan, the more favorable our position for the recovery and preservation of health" (Counsels on Health, p. 206). By working the land, we not only fulfill God's original plan for humanity but also place ourselves in an environment conducive to physical, mental, and spiritual health.

In another insightful quote, she says, "It is God's plan that agriculture shall be connected with the work of our sanitariums and schools. Our youth need the education to be gained from this line of work. It is well that there are now so many to receive practical experience in these lines" (Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 312). This highlights the importance of integrating agriculture into our education and lifestyle as a means of holistic development and spiritual growth.


Family Support and Community


Family support has also been crucial. For instance, my cousin's wife visited us, interested in learning about country living. She was so inspired by our journey that she left us a check for 2,000 pounds, enabling us to buy materials for our first tunnel.

Our family has been an integral part of our farming journey, providing us with emotional and financial support. Their encouragement and belief in our mission have been invaluable in keeping us motivated and focused on our goals.


God's Provision and Promises


Throughout our journey, we have seen God's provision in countless ways. One significant instance was when the BBC contacted us to feature our farm on a TV show. Despite missing their initial calls, we prayed, asking God to intervene if it would glorify Him. Miraculously, the BBC called back, and they filmed our farm, allowing us to share our testimony with a broad audience.

This experience reinforced our belief in Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" This verse reminds us that God's promises are reliable, and we can trust Him to fulfill His word.

Another promise that has been particularly meaningful to us is found in Matthew 18:19, "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." This verse has been a source of strength and encouragement, knowing that when we come together in prayer, God listens and acts.


Encouragement for Others


Our journey into agriculture has taught us that you don't need extensive experience to start. God will enable you; you just have to be willing. As Ellen White wrote, "Our Heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service of God supreme will find perplexities vanish and a plain path before their feet" (The Ministry of Healing, p. 481).

If God has asked you to come to the country or to farm, He will provide the means and enable you to succeed. Trust in His promises and remain willing to follow His guidance.


Conclusion


Thank you for listening to our story. We hope it encourages you to trust in God's plan for your life, even if it seems uncertain or challenging. Agriculture is not just a noble occupation; it’s God's original plan for humanity. By aligning ourselves with His will, we can find fulfillment and purpose in our work.

Remember, God’s promises are true. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

Another promise that has been particularly meaningful to us is found in Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" This verse reassures us that God is faithful to His promises, and we can rely on His word.


Note: the audio file from the reference link was converted to text using Whisper model from OpenAI in conda environment with python 3.9. The final article was formatted using ChatGPT 4.o. Save the Date of our upcoming Growth Agriculture Conference on 20-23 September 2024. For more details click this link https://www.shalem.net/events/growth-conference-2024

 

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