By Bren Dubay
Spring is on our minds. It’s coming. I’m thinking about Genesis: “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” Tending the garden was humankind’s first task. Jenn and Michael are the primary people here at Koinonia who have this task – Jenn in the garden, blueberries and grapes, and Michael in the pecan orchards. (Of course we have our beloved Norris and Jim, but Jenn and Michael are able to devote full time to growing food).
Following World War II, modern agriculture set out to feed the world. In order to produce more food, farmers adopted the use of synthetic herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides, unintentionally launching a war on the soil. The result has been a massive loss of topsoil over an area greater than the size of Africa. And because the remaining soil is depleted and lifeless, our food contains fewer nutrients.
Koinonia practices regenerative farming, using none of the “-cides” (from the Latin -cida, meaning “a killer”). In this method, all organisms, even weeds, are important. To build organic matter, we apply compost teas, soil amendments such as molasses and gypsum, and bio-stimulants, and we spray beneficial bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes. Our goal is soil teeming with diverse life.
We continue to remember Clarence Jordan’s encouraging words when Ku Klux members sought to force the community to sell the land and move away:
Fifteen years ago we went there, and we bought that old, run-down, eroded piece of land. It was sick. There were gashes in it. It was sore and bleeding. I don’t know whether you’ve ever walked over a piece of ground that could almost cry out to you and say, “Heal me, heal me!” I don’t know whether you feel the closeness to the soil that I do. But when you fill in those old gullies and terrace the fields and you begin to feel the springiness of the sod beneath your feet, and you see that old land come to life, and when you walk through a little old pine forest that you set out in little seedlings and now you see them reaching for the sky and hear the wind through them . . . Men say to you, “Why don’t you sell it and move away?” They might as well ask you, “Why don’t you sell your mother?” Somehow God has made us out of this old soil, and we go back to it, and we never lose its claim on us.
Surely the original soil from which humankind arose was rich and life-filled. At Koinonia, Jenn and Michael are making every attempt to set the table for those coming after them. Life begets life. Thank you, Jenn and Michael. You give us hope. You give us courage.