It was just a few short weeks ago that our economy was firing on all cylinders with virtually zero unemployment as almost everyone who wanted a job could get one. Today millions find themselves at home and out of work while terms such as ‘flattening the curve’ and ‘social distancing’ have captured the world’s vernacular. Although new in name, COVID-19 will go down in history as a call that America answered not only for our own but for those around the world. We know that that answer doesn’t lie in increased government intervention or spending but in American grit and work ethic. A work ethic that, when matched with God’s eternal hand, helped save the world some seventy-years ago and will do so again with this pandemic.
It was that spirit of hope and a better tomorrow that first attracted dreamers from afar and captured the hearts of many of our nation’s founders, including George Washington. While many refer to Washington as “The Father of America,” he could also be considered the “Father of American Agriculture” as his support for the vocation and wise contributions to cultivation and stewardship helped build the modern-day breadbasket of the world.
Like many North Carolinians, Washington began farming tobacco before moving into food crops such as cabbage, corn, and wheat. Although the needs of a young nation would pull him away for years, he longed to be back home with his wife, cultivating the soil of his farm. What is notable was just how much Washington loved agriculture and considered it “the most noble employment of man.” Think for a moment of the fame and luxuries that were Washington’s for the taking at the end of the Revolution and his presidency. Some historians suggest that he could have remained president for life, becoming not only our first president but our first emperor. However, Washington wanted none of it and longed to return home to spend time with his family and turn his attention to the cultivation of his beloved Mount Vernon’s.
Right now, COVID-19 has us all considering what we lack today and what the long-term effects could be on our identity and way of life beyond this pandemic. With that, some good news: North Carolina is rich in both farms and, more importantly, farmers and, in times like this, they need us so they can be there tomorrow when we need them. I hear many ask, “What can I do?” and to that, the answer is not only simple but delicious. Now more than ever, our local producers need us, and they are not looking for handouts and guarantees, but customers and markets to ensure that their labor is not in vain. They know their nutrient-dense crops can nourish the citizens of our great state and perhaps the belly of tomorrow’s George Washington.
Even if today you find your pantry stocked and your freezer full, I can assure you that there’s someone in your neighborhood or church that isn’t as fortunate. With that, I’d like to challenge us all to look for neighbors in need and bless them from the fields of a local farmer. While many farmers markets remain open, many farmers and crop producers have turned to home delivery or community pick-up locations. Now is a perfect time for churches to bless those in their congregations by providing them with local meat and produce from a local farm. Not only would we be filling the hearts and bellies of our most vulnerable, but of our local farmers as well, a group that eagerly awaits springtime to put their tools in the ground against all odds to provide our families with the best of their bounty. A few great places to explore for these farms beyond social media are Eatwild, Local Harvest, and the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.
There’s an old motto that goes “Faith, Family, and Freedom,” and with that, I’ll add “Food, Local Food.”