SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

July 7, 2014

Seminary leading the way

JONATHAN QUILTER DISPATCH PHOTOS Apprentice Owen Needham plants beets inside a hoop house on the farm at the Methodist Theological School in Delaware.

 Seeds of faith

Methodist seminarians tend farm to grow own food and share with neighbors


The can opener soon might be obsolete in the dining hall at Methodist Theological School in Ohio.  The kitchen at the Delaware County seminary is trading in its canned food for fresh produce grown at a farm just a few yards from its door.

Half of the kitchen’s fruits and vegetables come from the school’s Seminary Hill Farm, which opened in December. Expectations are that the 4-acre site will supply 100 percent of the campus’s produce within three years.

Apprentice Danny Mowka operates a tractor to plant seeds at the Methodist Theological School, where the school’s Seminary Farm is combining theology and ecology.

The site’s organic fields are sprouting 130 plant varieties that make their way into the dining hall and onto the plates of students and faculty and staff members. PBJ&K (a classic plus kale) is a lunch specialty.

On a recent afternoon, as temperatures approached 90 degrees, students and other workers pulled weeds, laid irrigation tubing and plowed fields.

  • Heading up operations is Tadd Petersen, manager of farm and food, who calls the endeavor an example of “faith in action.”

“I think the church has an opportunity to forge a new path with action rather than words,” he said. “There are a lot of huge challenges with our current food system, and hopefully this can be part of the answer.”

While the farm makes the school more self-sustaining, it also might affect the community in a number of other ways. Petersen works with local farmers to help supply the dining hall, he seeks collaboration with nonprofit groups to get fresh produce into the kitchens of the needy, and he offers non-student apprentices experience in the hope that they will eventually start their own farms.

Starting on Thursday, the farm will offer a “Summer Share” community-supported agriculture program, through which local residents can invest in the farm in return for some of the fresh produce grown there.

“We’re really trying to affect the food system as a whole, not just create our own haven here,” Petersen said.

  • President Jay Rundell said the seminary has long been teaching the link between theology and ecology, and the idea for the farm came from students.
  • “Students have asked for us to align campus life better with what we’re teaching in classes on ethics and environment, theology and ecology,” he said. “Issues of food and food justice come into play.

“We’re in a position now … to actually begin living a little bit of what we’ve been teaching.”


    Chef Drew Ray has incorporated the farm’s produce, including organic greens, into the Methodist Theological School’s menu.

The seminary offers master’s programs that focus on ecology and social change and ecology and justice. And before the farm came to fruition, the school took steps in an effort to help Earth as well as future clergy members on campus: Dining options took a healthier turn as most soft drinks were replaced with juice options, bowls of free fruit were available in a coffee shop and water fountains were designed to easily fill reusable bottles.

  • But the most dramatic changes followed Petersen to campus, seminary spokesman Danny Russell said. In addition to the demise of canned foods, the school’s commencement meal featured greens entirely harvested from the farm, and the dining menu was updated again. Recent offerings include stir-fried veggies, mango salsa, vegan tomato-and-spinach bisque, grass-fed steak strips and roasted roots.

The farm has two 96-foot hoop houses (similar to greenhouses), beehives arrived this week, and plans include a fruit orchard to be irrigated with the help of a windmill purchased by the 2014 graduating class.

  • Petersen called Seminary Hill unique. Rundell said he’s seen full-fledged farms at seminaries overseas but has not heard of anything similar in the United States. He said he hopes it will inspire other seminaries to follow suit.

The school, on 80 acres near the Olentangy River, was in a good position to start a farm. Many seminaries don’t have that option, said Norman Wirzba, professor of theology and ecology at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C.


But schools are increasingly offering programs that connect students with farms, community gardens or church-supported gardens, he said, and he expects the trend to grow.

“There are significant efforts to try to reconnect Christians with land and with food production so something like the nurture and healing of the world can happen,” he said.

Graduate student Ariel Hively of the Hilliard area said she took a job at Seminary Hill Farm because she wanted to work outdoors, but she’s now looking to refine her studies to include environmental science.

  • The planting and harvesting has been “the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “I think the kingdom of God is here now,” said Hively, 23. “We’re supposed to take care of this Earth and we’re supposed to take care of each other, and that’s what love is.”

Learn more about Seminary Hill Farm at  academics/seminary-hill-farm   and at  / seminaryhillfarm.



(My Comment:

This  Saturday article has to be one of the most rewarding, uplifting and satisfying items I have ever posted.  Smokingchoices has always been dedicated to the “health process” and nothing I’ve ever seen can surpass what these wonderful people are doing.  We are all in this boat together, but to actually SEE individuals out there doing this work. . .well, it’s just magnificent and I’m impressed.

God bless every last one of you and may you continue to increase and swell in numbers.  Thank you for what you are doing by example and with joy.     Jan)


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: