Stewarding a Farm Dream

Stewarding a Farm Dream

We each have a story.

Sometimes we love the story, and other times we’d rather opt out of our narrative and into another. The beauty of your story is that even the difficult plot points, the ones that leave you a little bruised and broken, have the capacity for good and for redemption. In fact, it’s often through our pain and suffering that great things are born. And so the story we live in-the good, the bad, and the ugly-offers us unique gifts, talents and dreams. The critical question then becomes, what will you do with all the gifts, talents, and dreams that your story has given you?

Consider the story of Joseph.

From treasured son, to cast-away slave, to man of great Egyptian power, Joseph chose to listen to his God given dreams. He kept a soft heart, held on to his dreams, and was obedient through it all-even if it made him look a little strange.

Through Joseph’s many trials, it would have been so easy for him to become hard hearted, unkind, and overlook his God given dreams. And I’m sure there were many times Joseph was tempted to do so. But ultimately, Joseph chose to steward his dreams. Even in uncertainty and transition, Joseph chose to believe in his dreams and obey, even when it made him look strange. And God honored his actions.

Eventually, from his seat of power, Joseph reunites with the brothers who cast him into slavery and even offers them forgiveness. God redeems Joseph’s story and his willingness to be different and obedient. But what’s more is that now, we too reap the reward of Joseph’s obedience as God paints the picture of an ordinary man being able to do extraordinary things.

On a more personal note, I offer you a modern day story, my story.

My story, in short, goes something like this.

I grew up a little Snow White-always feeding the birds, dancing in the rain, and dreaming I could one day have a big house with lots of animals and if I was lucky, maybe one day I’d even have a horse. My love for all things created eventually lead me to the field of psychology where I thought I could apply my passion for life in a more “practical” way. But it was on this journey of becoming a therapist that my story took a steep nose dive.

Within the span of 6 months, my mother, my father and I all underwent some terrible tragedies. My beautiful, hardworking mother became temporarily disabled and also illegally terminated from her job. I was forced to quit my college volleyball career due to a back injury that left me unable to sit, walk or stand. And my healthy, active, outdoorsmen father was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. This was one of those plot points I really wanted out of.

My prayer through this season was often begging for miracles. And when the miracles did not arrive, I realized I needed to change my plea. Instead, I begged God to one day show me the redemption. I pleaded that one day I could see how this suffering would benefit the lives of others.

The days came and went as I dragged myself to classes wearing running shoes, pockets full of ibuprofen, heart grasping for hope.

Mom had surgery, dad got treatment, and I started physical therapy. This was the new “normal” for far too long. Until, finally, a plot shift.

It was a hot September night and we were celebrating the life of my mentor’s daughter. They invited friends and family to join them in celebrating her second birthday. Though still heartbroken over my circumstances, I went. (What a gift to join in the joy of others when your own life has little joy to offer.) Little did I know this night would change my life forever.

She blew out the candles, they served cake, and we gathered in the backyard under the wisteria. I quite literally bumped into a sweet couple who shared with me their story, their passions and their dreams. Roxanne had a painful experience in the foster care system and decided she could do something to make a difference. So they built a ranch. And on this ranch, they paired troubled youth with rescued horses and they saw kids and horses be healed. And it was in this moment a light bulb went off. “This… this is something I could do forever” I thought to myself.

I went to sleep that night and had the most vivid dream of a white ranch house on a hill, sun setting in the background, finally... on my horse, we trotted up the hill, past lush green gardens full of food and flowers. We were getting ready for a big gathering where lots of people would come to this place, eat the fresh food, find some peace in nature, and be healed.

This is where my regenerative farm dream was born (and why I started a youtube channel to document our journey)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RN5qaSHIGc
Our story in a nutshell and how we steward the dream in suburbia for now

Two years after this dream, my back was healed, my mom was better, and my dad was getting ready to be with Jesus. I wish I could offer you a more hope filled ending, but this is simply how the story goes. This is one of those plot points I couldn’t do much about… at least not in that moment.

In November 2013 we scattered my father’s ashes in the Pacific Ocean and I went home that night praying that this too would one day be redeemed.

Little did I know that my father’s cancerous death would lead me into the research wormhole of examining modern medicine and our very fragile food system.

As I write this article, we are witnessing first hand the painful reality that the food system is broken as COVID-19 ravages the world in Pandemic and people stockpile food supplies (and toilet paper). So too is our hospital system broken as hospitals are overloaded and understaffed and the modern medicine system of “symptom management” proves to be a poor solution.

What if there is a better way?

Precious reader, there is.

The research wormhole led me to the following conclusion: food is medicine. The right food with the right nutrients allows us to boost our immunity, protecting us from many unwanted germs, bacteria, viruses, and dare I say it-cancer. And bonus, good food also means good mood. Food was slowly becoming the lens through which I saw all healing-both physical and psychological.

But to have food with these precious qualities means we not only that we care for ourselves well, it means we’ve also cared for the earth and her soil well.

To have great food that offers hope and healing to its’ hosts means that it came from soil filed with hope and healing too.

And this is why I care about regenerative agriculture.

To keep it short and sweet, regenerative agriculture is the opposite of how most food is currently grown. Conventional food is grown as a monocrop, in nutrient depleted soil, and sprayed with glyphosate (a known carcinogen). This is hard, labor intensive, poisonous work. It’s crop creates sad, sick people.

Regenerative agriculture offers a better way.

Regenerative agriculture rebuilds top soil allowing nutrients to form, uses mulch and permaculture to suppress weeds making poisonous sprays obsolete, and ultimately, offers a greater abundance of food.

Why do I know all of this? Well yes... I am a therapist, but I am now also a farmer.

I have devoted my my spare time to learn about regenerative agriculture and I’m learning to grow my own food because God has given me a dream.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvMuFKrsCQ0&t=59s
In stewarding my dream, I attended a conference known as Homesteaders of America, where lots of people from around the world gather to share in their passions of homegrown... everything! Here I was able to meet some of the people who inspired my regenerative farming journey, including Joel Salatin of Polyface farms and Jill Winger of The Prairie Homestead.

He’s given me the dream of a regenerative ranch and retreat center.

Though it feels far off now, I choose to be like Joseph. I aim to remain humble, obedient, and choose the road less traveled. I choose to steward my dream. Because God, through the highs and lows of my story, has given me this dream for a reason.

For Joseph, he dreamt he would be a ruler and he ultimately helped guide the nation of Egypt. As for me, I dream of feeding and healing many people through the art of hospitality and farming on a regenerative farm and retreat center.

Through awareness, prayer and a willingness to co-author something beautiful, you can shift from being shaped by your story to shaping your story. Life can be so much more than something that happens to you, it can be something you co-create with the Lord.

So whether you’re the leader of many like Joseph, or a gal with a farm dream, you’ve been given your story for a reason. You’ve been given unique passions, giftings, and dreams. And you have something wonderful to offer this world.

May you steward your dreams and let your light shine.

Natalie