God, Soil, Farm: Learning from Agriculture
In 2017 Professor Stephen McGinley bought what is now known as Good Soil Farm. Located only a few minutes away from the Mount’s main campus, Good Soil Farm not only serves as a place for regenerative, no-till farming but also a
place where students can take part in experiential learning. According to McGinley, it is through this practice of regenerative agriculture that students can, “see concretely how the assumptions they make about God, man and the world matter for how we treat things of the world.” For example, all of McGinley’s spring semester classes include a field trip to Good Soil Farm where theological and philosophical concepts are related to the practical act of farming.
Beyond simply being given the opportunity to volunteer as a farmhand, Mount students are also invited to undertake internships and independent studies where they can earn credits in fields such as biology. Cameron Bricker (C’21) is one of the students who conducted such an internship where he spent time studying the different types of crop beds. Bricker, who has been with Good Soil Farm since 2018, helped McGinley build some of the farm’s first beds. In light of his time at Good Soil Farm, Bricker said, “I have learned a lot about agriculture as well as myself, and it has helped me appreciate the Earth and our food sources much more.” Aside from learning more about the act of farming itself, Bricker also spent much of his time engaging in philosophical discussion.
According to Bricker, working at the farm allows students to learn a variety of practical skills such as how to maintain soil, create herbal medicines and protect crops without the use of pesticides. All of the farming practices taught at Good Soil Farm revolve around regenerative agriculture. In contrast to many modern industrial farming practices, regenerative agriculture seeks to preserve the nutrient content of soil and help plants and animals grow in the way they were naturally created to do so. In light of a comprehensive understanding of the connection between all of God’s creation, it is the wish of McGinley that Good Soil Farm helps to, “work for the flourishing of all things from the soil up.”
Given the experiences of students like Bricker, it would seem as though Good Soil Farm has done well in promoting both the flourishing of its crops and the flourishing of those who work there.