The Reluctant Blogger

Posted by Missouri Rev on Oct 7th, 2005

Alas, the reluctant blogger has finally published for the first time to the Rural Missourian, such as it is. From the number of bloggers that take vacations from blogging, I can see that it’s going to take a fair amount of time to keep up on it. We’ll see how long I last. Most of you know me through my preaching, the lengthy e-mail commentaries I send out from time to time, or the comments I make on other blogs. Welcome all!

Yesterday noon, I went with my wife Carmen and daughter Susan to glean the field of a local truck farmer close to where we live. He grows tomatoes, squash, beans, cantaloupe, watermelon, and other vegetables. With the first freeze coming on I contacted the farmer and got his permission to glean before the frost would destroy what produce was left, which was actually considerable. As the tomatoes that remain were “the wrong size and shape to sell,” I could take all I wanted, as he had finished with them about two weeks earlier. I was stunned. There were easily 50,000 abandoned ripe tomatoes, the vast majority of which were rotting. We were able to harvest about 100 lbs of good tomatoes, which are quite delicious and well worth the hour’s sweat. Susan made a wonderful “fresh” tomato soup last night; it really hit the spot with the cold weather and all. We were also permitted to glean a small amount of zucchini and yellow squash, as the farmer was planning on coming that afternoon to make a final harvest. Even here there were thousands of cut squash left to rot because they were the “wrong size.” We are most grateful that he allowed us to glean his land; he certainly could have said no, especially with all of the lawsuits these days.

Now I am not a farmer (at least for now) but I know that there is going to be a certain amount of produce that goes unharvested and will eventually be plowed under, but this seems a bit wasteful, at least from the view of making a living as a farmer. There are cheaper ways to manure the soil than to plow under produce that took a lot of labor and money to bring to maturity. I realize the great global market has “standards” – in size, shape, and color – which the farmer must comply with to get his market share. The way I see it though, he has greatly limited himself catering to any market as simply a produce salesman. If he were to add value to what he grows by his own labor he could produce may products which could use the “non standard” produce left abandoned. Think of the delicious salsa he could have made with the 50,000 tomatoes. Having been in various businesses throughout the years, I also recognize he must have a market for the salsa in order to sell it, but this is where the tire meets the soil, so-to-speak, where one develops his markets first and then provides the various products for it.

On another note, I visited the other day with a retired farmer and his wife who live just down the road. Though I have permission to hunt on their land, I always check in every now and then just to see how they are doing. Besides, there is such a wealth of wisdom to be gained every time I visit them. He is 92 and she is 91. In musing about his farming days he shared a humorous story with me. Until he purchased his first tractor in 1944, he had been, like his father, farming with a team of horses. The day he bought his tractor and plow he took them into the field behind his house to give them a try. He just got started when the plow stuck on something and released itself, wherein he shouted at the top of his lungs WHOA!! He said it didn’t take but a second to realize what he did, wherein he looked around sheepishly to see if anyone heard him give verbal orders to his tractor.

After a good laugh, he hesitated for a long quiet moment while musing upon those days before stating that by and far the hardest thing he ever did as a farmer was to sell his beloved team of horses, for he knew that they went to meat (the dog food cannery), even though he sold them to a neighbor who wasn’t directly in this business. Tens of thousands of well bred, well trained horses and mules went to the cannery during the days when our nation transitioned to tractors. Decades later and many thousands of dollars in debt with little profit and satisfaction left in farming, many of these farmers regret having left the simplicity of the small farm they once worked with joy.

His son, a farmer, who also delivers mail full time and runs a part time saw mill to make ends meet, told me that he no longer has any heart to farm, so he will likely hang unto the mail job as long as he can to keep his benefits until he retires and then just run the saw mill. Meanwhile, his son, a full time farmer, comes into the house to show his grandfather the hames of the harness from his great grandfather’s team that he is restoring so he can display them on his living room wall. The grandson’s wife is a little perturbed about this whole endeavor since he has been delaying putting their expensive combine into their fields to do the harvesting of the year’s corn and soybeans. He then reminds her that the fields are still too muddy for his behemoth machine. Before leaving to go work on an enormous piece of farm machinery the grandson proudly mentioned that he just built a new door for one of their sheds from their own lumber, which he cut and milled. On this door he attached a small placard he carved that has on it the name of the family farm and its founding date, 1854. Boy, we sure have come a long way haven’t we?

14 Responses

  1. David McCrory Says:

    Greetings Missouri Rev,

    I enjoyed you post about farming. I would just say that though I am not in a position to farm, I am sympathic with their lives and their difficulites. I believe that corporate farms have devastated the small rural farmer.

    They can no longer subsistance farm and must grow cash crops in order to survive.

    I also appreciate your choice of movies and books in your profile.
    I just starting blogging three days ago but you can visit my blog at http://www.covenantcorner.blogspot.com

    I’d like to link to your blog, with your permission and maybe you could link with mine.

    Again, thank you for the great comments.

    P.S. I found you through you link at Chad Degenhart’s blog.

    In Christ,

    David

  2. Herrick Kimball Says:

    Pastor Mc Connell,

    Welcome to the world of Christian-Agrarian blogging.

    Your post about gleaning is something of a coincidence. I was speaking just yesterday with a coworker of mine and he told me of a very large potato farmer in his town who harvests only potatoes of a certain size. ALL other potatoes– perfectly good potatoes, some of large size, but not the wanted size– are left and not used.

    This is something I had not heard of before and, at first, I thought it so incredible that doubted the story.

    I’m looking forward to reading your Blog and will link you to my Blog at “The Deliberate Agrarian”

    Best wishes,

    Herrick Kimball
    http://www.TheDeliberateAgrarian.com

  3. Herrick Kimball Says:

    P.S. I’m curious about the picture on your blog. Can you tell us something about it?

  4. Missouri Rev Says:

    David . . . thanks for commenting. Glad to see you have joined the blogging world. I just visited your blog and left my two cents worth. I don’t have a problem with you linking me to your blog. However, I would recommend spending the time reviewing the archives of Chad’s blog to read my many comments, so that you can better know my doctrine and faith before making a the link. Once linked, should I go off the deep end and you find it necessary to remove it, I’ll not be offended. I will be linking to yours.

    Herrick . . . thanks for visiting. Without having established a market for the odd shaped and sized tomatoes, the farmer was wise to put no more labor into them and just leave them, though I question a plan that wastes so much. When I arrived to glean I thought perhaps the huge amounts of abandoned tomatoes were due to insect damage or something, but, apart from a small number, they appeared to be whole and undamaged. Though this is likely not an unusual thing in farming, I was so impressed with the scope of what was before me that I took the time with my daughter to get a pretty accurate estimate of the total number of tomatoes. Not being a farmer I suppose I am guilty of armchair quarterbacking, but having a keen desire in this vocation and having taught for years on biblical agrarianism as a pastor, the situation really caught my attention. Sometimes it takes an outsider with a fresh perspective to see something that the insider has seen so much that it has lost its meaning.

    We live in a disposable society that wastes on a scale unprecedented in human history. Our debt-based economic system is geared around consumption, not production . . . exploitation, not conservation . . . wastefulness, not thrift . . . vanity, not modesty . . . arrogance, not humility . . . virtual, not real . . . designer, not utilitarian . . . and plunder, not stewardship. Having been involved in the computer repair industry for several years, I have noticed that the acceleration towards disposable, short lived junk is stunning, though the deception in marketing by corporate manufactures would lead one to believe that the quality of their goods only improves. Walk into any thrift store these days and notice the huge quantities of lightly worn clothes that are for sale for practically nothing. This is great for the poor, but there is coming a day, especially in our country that long ago sent its clothing manufacturers overseas, when clothing will be hard to get and quite expensive, when the term threadbare will be a reality for many. The days of owning multiple pairs of cheap, disposable plastic shoes are numbered. Perhaps the cobbler will make a comeback, I hope so.

    The picture in my blog is of the Crooked River Valley about a mile from my home. Besides the old abandoned barn, there is an old brick house that is so overgrown with trees and brush that one can barely discern it when closely passing by. The valley is still farmed by row croppers that use copious amounts of chemicals and herbicides and huge farm machinery. I yearn for the day when the Lord would be pleased to put His stewarding families back on this land that it might be restored to sustainable fertility and bounty. That will come when the American Church turns back to the law of the LORD as its final, transcendent standard and lives it out in covenantal faithfulness.

  5. Randall Gerard Says:

    Rev. McConnell,

    Having just gathered a small paper bag full of green tomatoes in order to save them from impending frost, I too am amazed at the bounty going to waste in your neck of the woods! Tomatoes, even the supposedly early varieties, don’t do well here. I wish we could have gleaned beside you.

    As always, I enjoy your observations. I’ll be linking to you as well. Feel free to come on over and visit, and not just visit, but correct any goofiness I might write.

  6. bob Says:

    Pastor McConnel,

    Your words about the wasteful habits of our culture warm my heart for my own parental training as a child instilled in me a great reluctance for waste. My wife comments that she has never known anyone who will scrape off a bit of mold off of a piece of a 79 cent loaf of bread.

    You speak of our generations desire to consume as much trivial garbage as it can without thought toward the cost or price and then we consider the fact that the average American is willing to get into a massive amount of debt so that he can amass his vast collection of worthless beads!

    There is a slow but growing movement within the saints in my church to consider themselves as stewards of what God has given and they are striving to use what God has given for His glory. You can find nearly every week a sack of produce and fruit as people tend their gardens and desire to share what God has given in abundance.

    Their children are being taught how to work with their lands I know that as their parents are diligent to bountifully sow the instructions of God’s Word to them that He will be pleased to allow them to reap bountifully in the years to come.

    I would covet your prayers for me as I seek to guide my family, as well as to instruct the saints, to diligently live as godly stewards of what God has given to us.

    In Christ,

    Bob Leverton
    Pastor, Faith Baptist Church

  7. David McCrory Says:

    Rev.,

    I appreciated your comments and left a reply over on CC. Meanwhile I’ll link over to you.

    I’m trying to build bridges between the Christian Reformed folks, Southern Theocrats and the Christian Agrarians. I feel some combination of these three groups would make a great covenant community.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Proverbs 12:27 The slothful [man] roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man [is] precious. (KJV)

  9. Jim Ketchum Says:

    Pastor Tom,

    Thanks for the blessing of your gleanings, both physical and spiritual, that you continue to be to us.

    In His humble service,

    Jim Ketchum and Jan Wyller

  10. Scott Terry Says:

    Let me say that I am thrilled to see you have a blog! After reading your comments over and over again at The House of Degenhart, I always wondered, “Why doesn’t he have his own blog?” Looking foward to reading your posts.

  11. Lawrence Says:

    Rev,
    Good to see you bloggng. I will add a link under my Agrarian section for you and add you to the portal page as well.

    Lawrence
    http://www.wildernessvoices.org

  12. Walter Jeffries Says:

    Waste is an amazing thing. We get excess milk and cheese from two local dairies. Fortunately they are forward thinking enough to give it away free to farmers for animal feed. Normally one must pick it up but twice they have delivered entire tractor trailor loads of cheese to us. Truely amazing!

    I look forward to reading your notes. Keep writing and living!

  13. pablo Says:

    Okay, Rev. Time for another post to the old blog. I’m dying out here in cyberspace.

  14. Missouri Rev Says:

    Pablo and fellow bloggers, hang in there, I have a few in the works that I will release soon . . . sorry for the wait, but I wear many hats in this small community which keeps me very busy.

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