Thomas Jefferson on Agriculture

We best know Thomas Jefferson as one of the Founding Fathers of our nation & the principle author of the Declaration of Independence.  But aside from his political career, he was a farmer and outspoken on the importance of the role of farmers/ranchers in society.  I found his quotes to be inspiring as we pursue this venture, so I thought I’d share a few:

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“I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them”.

“Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not.”

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.”

“Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right.  The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on.  The small landowners are the most precious part of a state.”

“Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth.”

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny”.

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And while our Founding Father’s words encourage me in our pursuits in the agriculture sector, my aim and hope is much more than wealth, morality or happiness.  I agree with him that a certain level of fulfillment and joy accompanies the simplicity of agrarian life, but I disagree that these things are the chief end.  Our wisest pursuit is Jesus, and he can be found in the midst of bustling city, colorless suburbia, or rural wide open spaces.

It holds true, however, that the rhythm of life in a rural setting where one is wakened each morning by the sounds of nature affords a more evident beauty than what we must look harder to see in “progressive” city life.  I quote progressive because, to me, it is not progress that we move away from the fundamentals of life – of which creation and agriculture most certainly are – to a life consumed by the siren song of materialism and the quest for better, newer, shinier, prettier.  There is not a city person I’ve met that doesn’t enjoy getting away from it all every now and then.   And while my belief is that we shouldn’t have to go on vacation to have peace, the fundamental truth found in our obsession with “vacations” (and how much we will pay for them) is that there is something that wide open spaces & beautiful places awakens in us.   We stand in awe and make high places out of the wonders of the world.  And when we behold them, we behold something much greater than ourselves.  In those brief moments, we know in the depths of us that there is divine design.  We are inspired.  Romans puts it nicely:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  (Romans 1:20)

Without excuse to what?  We are without excuse to behold the wonders of God’s creation and neglect to acknowledge Him as their Creator…as our Creator.  We are without excuse to live lives that make much of us when we are called to live lives that make much of God.  To glorify Him, not the things he created.

In Romans, Paul goes on to say in the next verse, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”  (Romans 1:21-22)

This convicts me – does my life glorify God?  How do I know?  I can know by examining my life by this verse : do I acknowledge Him as God by the way I live my life?  Do I live in a way as if I am submitted to His loving authority -or- do I live in a way that is governed by the tyranny of my selfish desires & self-exalting pursuits (however noble they may be)?  Do I live life to make Him look good or to make me look good?  Is thankfulness quick to be on my tongue because I see life as a gift from Him -or- are most of my words used up on negativity & futility?  Is my thinking rooted in the eternal or the things that will pass away?  Is my heart tender with compassion, knowing that “I love because He first loved me” -or- has my heart been hardened by years of myopic pursuits?

Even more questions emerge from examining this verse and letting it shine a light into my life, but I’ll stop there.  I hope these questions are exposing for you too and that in answering them honestly, you might seek the One who says, “Today if you hear my voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:15).  May we look upon His revelation to us in nature and heed His voice today friends.

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