Communing with the divine at Thomas Adams Farm
Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. – Ecclesiastes 11:4
You can find God in farming.
Wait, hear me out - this isn’t a religious statement. This is an observation, a study of history and literature, and the perspective of many great naturalists. EO Wilson declared that “nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual satisfaction.” Barbara Kingsolver reflects that “every religious tradition from the northern hemisphere honors some form of April Hallelujah, for this is the season of exquisite redemption, a slam-bang return to joy after a season of cold second thoughts.” And Edward Abbey, after years of harsh wilderness solitude, proclaimed that “the forests and mountains and desert canyons are holier than our churches.”
And the act of farming, of guiding food through the divinity of nature, the faith in planting seeds and the gratitude of harvest, the gift of good food and full bellies - how can this be anything but transcendent?
Touring Thomas Adams Farm in Crewe, VA, the otherworldly soulfulness that is present amongst thriving crops is easy to perceive. This makes sense—the four-acre farm is run by Tony Lewis, a full-time pastor who has been nourishing his flock and his community with healthy, organically grown food since 2018.
On this particular morning, Tony and Deacon Ben - who at 83 works on the farm more days than not - are planting tomatoes in the new high tunnel, a 100” gothic arch that will keep the babes safe from a late spring freeze. Tony is clearly delighted to be planting these hundreds of seedlings, delicately pinching the lower leaves and then tucking them gently into the ground, making sure four inches of each fuzzy stem is covered with earth. “They’ll put out roots all the way up,” he says, gently applying a splash of organic fertilizer to each settled seedling.
In early May, the tomato plants are tiny; it’ll be months before there’s a harvest. But outside the high tunnel, there are six long rows of collards and kale; Tony stoops to remove the frost cover that’s been protecting the crops from the cold nights, and the hearty greens seem to stretch up to the sunlight. They are more mature than one might expect this time of year, with radials of broad leaves ten inches long. Tony explains they have been babying these crops since very early spring, and that they are already sold to restaurants in Richmond that value local food. His joy in these greens is obvious and contagious.
Tony describes how Thomas Adams is a center for the community, as well as healthy produce. In addition to Deacon Ben, the FFA kids from the local high school come to work and learn, and there are plans for a farm stand to serve the local church communities. Gazing out over an open area, he lays out his vision for a sweet potato patch in the fall, and I swear I can see the arrow-shaped leaves vining over the ground, put there by his words alone. He says they’ll be having a harvest party in the fall, and I can’t think of anything more appropriate for this farm than crowds of people coming together in celebration.
Small farmers like Tony operate with grit and passion and purpose. Every year they plant in the spring, full of faith for later harvest. Tiny seeds grow into tomatoes and hard work turns into celebrations; it happens every year, with regularity that allows one to mistake this cycle as mundane. But it’s not. It’s not mundane or ordinary or regular. Farming like this is nothing short of a miracle.