“The earth was given to man, with this condition, that he should occupy himself in its cultivation…. The custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition that – being content with a frugal and moderate use of them – we should take care of what shall remain.
Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence; but let him endeavor to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated.” John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, Geneva, 1554 AD
I can almost guarantee that you haven’t been thinking much about dirt lately, especially as it relates to your faith commitments. But this summer, the American breadbasket in Iowa has lost so much of the life-giving stuff that even city-dwellers are starting to become alarmed. In one five-day period in May this year, Iowa farms lost 5 tons of topsoil per acre, due to heavy rains and conventional farming practices. That’s 6 million tons of nutrient-rich topsoil stripped off of Iowa farms, and headed for the “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico. In five days. From Iowa alone.
Christians read their Bibles, and find that God placed the man he made in his garden for one stated reason: to tend (“avad”) it, and keep (“shamar”) it (Genesis 2:15). The words – avad and shamar – more accurately mean to serve, and to protect. God placed our race into his creation to serve and protect it, as Reformed scientist Calvin DeWitt so eloquently argues: To serve that garden – the one we now see washing slowly down the river.
And so I take note when an Iowa farmer raises his voice and tells us all that our approach to producing food simply must change. John Gilbert, who raises dairy cows, corn and soybeans in Hardin County, Iowa issued a public challenge to farmers, and I think we should listen in.
We Cannot Continue to Treat Our Soils Like Dirt
Following the worst soil damage in decades and an expanding dead zone in the gulf, Iowans can’t keep farming the same way. What happened all over the Midwest so far this year was some of the worst soil damage in decades, if not generations. Our current situation is not sustainable. We cannot continue to treat our soils like dirt. Continue reading