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Kevin Ford

Dr. Jared Staudt

Jason Craig

Tommy Van Horn

Casey Truelove

Eugene Diamond

Brian Ring

Jim Curley

Amanda Ring

Opportunities

Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Posts | 0 comments

Opportunities

I have added a new “Opportunities” section to the website where I will be posting various opportunities for people to get back to a rural life in some way or another. These will include land for sale in areas that have vibrant Catholic Culture as well as opportunities on Catholic-owned farms for employment or internships. I have added the first listing today. If you have something you would like me to add then please contact me. Kevin

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On Motherhood (by Mary Ford)

Posted by on Apr 24, 2017 in Posts | 6 comments

On Motherhood (by Mary Ford)

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to thy word,” Mary humbly proclaims to the Archangel Gabriel at the moment of the Annunciation. And so great was her humility, her love, her acceptance of the divine will of God that she became the Mother of God at that moment. What fruit her motherhood bore – and is bearing – for the world! Because of Mary’s “Fiat”, her humble “yes” to God, humanity was saved. The faithful are allowed to enter into Heaven because of her willing motherhood. Reflecting on this now, I’m struck by the complete gift of self that Mary made at the moment of the Incarnation. I’ve often heard in the course of my life as a Catholic that we ought to follow Mary’s example, that she is the perfect role model for us to imitate in following God’s will. This perfect acceptance of God’s will is what prompted Kevin and me to name our farm in St. Leo “Fiat Farms.” We wanted to offer our work, our family life, our prayer, and our play as a constant “Fiat” to God’s will. I’m afraid sticking to this model of faithfulness was more difficult for us than we had first supposed, however. I’ve never found anything better to teach me on a daily basis about accepting God’s will than farming. Success in farming is very dependent on the weather, the climate, how many pests are present, etc., all of which are circumstances largely out of a farmer’s control. This “out of control” aspect of farming is an excellent teacher of trust in God. I can vividly remember one evening in our second year in St. Leo when a hail storm, accompanied by the unhelpful temperature of 32 degrees, swept over our farm. It was springtime, and a large portion of our crops were still only beginning to put up hopeful, tender shoots towards the sun. When it first began, Kevin and I immediately knelt in prayer, asking our Lord to protect our farm and drive the storm away, Sea of Galilee style. Instead, the hail storm continued far into the night. As the hail continued to fall, Kevin and I looked at each other from our position kneeling there on the floor, and Kevin gave me a sad smile. It was a smile that acknowledged both the destruction of all our work up to that point and the fact that God was willing all this, whether we understood it or not. It was one of the first tests of our dedication to the motto of “let it be done to me”. There have been many other tests since, for “the Lord chastises those he loves” (Heb. 12:6). The latest of these tests came recently when Kevin had some sort of rapid-beat episode with his heart, an incident scary enough to send him by ambulance to the ER. He was released the same night, a mild prognosis given, and told not to worry unless it kept happening. But seeing him strapped to a stretcher and driven away in an ambulance that evening, despite the gentle smile of love and reassurance he gave me, I felt much of my security stripped away. It was a life-changing moment, realizing that my husband might...

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On Fatherhood

Posted by on Apr 21, 2017 in Posts | 9 comments

On Fatherhood

“To obtain the help of Providence it should be your aim to cooperate, as it were, with the Fatherhood of God and bring up your children as He would wish them brought up, especially by showing good example. Have the courage to lay aside all other ambition and let this be the only object of your care and desire.”  Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence – Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint Coure S.J. What does it mean to be a father? For nearly ten years I have been pondering on this question in the context of my marriage. How can I be the best possible father? Our society would judge the success of man by the number of 0’s in his paycheck. We take pride in huge homes and memberships to organizations, in recognition by awards, and in rising up the ladder of our chosen business. Yet, I think that too often we are missing the mark. For each of those worldly successes cost us in time with our children and family. Our ambitions have spiritual consequences that may bear bad fruit as our children grow up in a home where their father is absent more than he is present. In ages past, work and family life were often integrated. The aging two story structures on every main street in every small town in America bear witness to this integration. Often families lived above the business. Father was never farther than a few stairs away. Out back they almost certainly grew a portion of their food and milked a cow for their milk supply. There the family possessed a level of integral happiness that modern disjointed family life can only dream of. My wife and I have made multiple choices to permit both of us to have as much time with our children as possible. This has at times brought immense difficulties into our lives, but at the same time brought immense blessings. Seldom do I miss a meal with my children. Every day I am here to lead prayers, admonish disobedience, and guide with fatherly love. The cost of this presence has been that I have had very little worldly success. My first attempt at farming ended in unmitigated disaster. However, the purpose of the New Catholic Land Movement was and is not to help fathers and families find worldly farming success. Rather it was to help families discover what and who they were meant to be in the context of the land. It is this realization that has led me to write again and take up the sword of the pen in defense of rural family life. I measured the success or failure of the NCLM too closely with my own personal success and failure. This led me to very nearly give up the NCLM altogether. For a time I thought of deleting this blog and moving on with life. Yet, bit by bit I have woken back up to the original fire that started this whole idea in me. In worldly measures the NCLM has profited me nothing. It has led me on journey that has at times left me poor and humiliated. Yet, no Christian movement of any kind can flourish if it does not first find the Cross. So here I am nearly ten years into this journey. My original...

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How Ought One to Live

Posted by on Oct 27, 2016 in Posts | 12 comments

How Ought One to Live

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace. To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue. To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside.” – A Sand Country Almanac: By Aldo Leopold What does it mean to be normal. What is the normal way of living one’s life. Norms change over time, but perhaps it is not normal that we are looking for, but rather how does God intend man to live. We live in a world full of extravagant technological advances. We have the ability to do things that were unfathomable to previous generations. Technology is not evil, but nor is it good. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but rather in a real world with real world consequences. It is value laden, and it changes our lives significantly. Once upon a time human beings grew food and ate it. We are unique amongst creatures in that we are the only ones to have discovered and used agriculture. Our God-endowed reason allows us to not only pick the wild berries, but to cut, plant, cultivate, and improve them. We even discovered how to create thornless blackberries, which surely is a marvelous thing if you have ever picked from the entangled brambles of the wild ones. Certainly agriculture, which is the purposeful growing of food is a critical aspect of humanity’s ability to survive. Without it our population would surely nearly disappear in comparison to our current numbers. Our world has forgotten what it means to be normal. While we have seen advances in technology beyond our wildest dreams, at the same time we have seen the moral disintegration of our families and communities. When I originally discovered the Catholic Land Movement I was enthralled by the vision it put forth of a family returning to the land to grow their own food in the midst of a rural community rooted in the faith. However, the vision of the founders was based in a world that no longer exists. Today rural life has dissipated into something much less that it once was. Too often rural parishes are comprised of members who have seen many years under the country sun. Too few young families inhabit such places today. The founders presupposed that a local village would provide faith, community, and culture. Today it provides a Wal-Mart and a bar… Too often families who seek to return to the land find themselves seen as backwards and isolated. Yet, over and over again I have heard from voices as far away as Asia and Europe that say they too feel the longing for the land. Families who feel that their lives are fragmented and long for the unity that the Catholic Land Movement presented. It has led me to discern more clearly what I understand the New Catholic Land Movement to be. I see it now more as a set of ideals rather than an organization. I don’t see it ever organizing...

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Don’t Ever Give Up

Posted by on Sep 20, 2016 in Posts | 10 comments

Don’t Ever Give Up

As a high school athlete I was prone to posting inspirational quotes on my locker and in our locker room. One post that I had up that I looked at often was from the famed college basketball coach Jim Valvano, also known as Jimmy V. It was very simple: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” It was particularly inspirational because it was said by a dying man. I think at some point in this journey back to the land I forgot about that indomitable spirit that once turned a gangly gawky boy into a national qualifying track athlete. I was not a great athlete, but I became one, but it was only after years of hard work and set backs. Lately I have been feeling that spirit come back. It is tamer and wiser than it once was. Perhaps I am a bit more prudent and cautious now as I begin again to journey back to the fields that constantly beckon me. I have been very quiet on here for quite some time. I will admit that I came within a hair’s width of giving up and going back to teaching. I made it all the way to the point of the interview and job offer. Then it seemed as though I had my Abraham and Isaac moment. God wanted to test me and see how far I was willing to go to follow him. The answer was simply as far as you want me to go Lord. Now it is as if I am awaking from a fog. Slowly I am remembering all the things I wrote on this blog. I am thinking again of the ideal of the land, and I am desiring to test it once again. The difference this time is that I know the cost. For two years I have been away from full time living and working of the land. During that time I took the time to become a better farmer. I have learned from my mistakes on our farm on the plains. I also have taken the time to study and learn to be a better farmer. My first attempt at farming I jumped head first hoping I would learn as I went, and learn I did. However, that learning had an awful cost. Ultimately, many of the problems I ran into were a result of my lack of knowledge and experience. Yet, my ultimate goal in farming was never to be the world’s greatest farmer. Farming and the land were always about something deeper. I forgot the reason I wanted to be on the land as I watched my dreams fade under the mandibles of  grasshopper plagues, crushing hailstorms, and blistering drought. As my stress level rose I forgot that the end goal was not to raise a crop. My end goal was to raise a family. My ultimate duty was to assist my spouse and children on their journey to holiness. It has only been since I started working outside the home again that I remembered how influential my constant presence on our farm was. I remembered and I once again desired that family unity that I had once only written about, but now I have lived. Today there is nothing under more attack by Satan than Marriage and...

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Worth it All

Posted by on Jan 26, 2016 in Posts | 13 comments

Worth it All

I am very blessed to be from a family of seven. My parents worked tirelessly to provide for us, and to give us many of the things they couldn’t afford growing up. That work ethic has led to my siblings going on to become successful in many different professions. We have a doctor, a lawyer, a carpenter, and an architect. I am always proud to tell others about my family. Then I come to myself…I’m a father. During the last few months I have taken a lot of time to reflect on life, and all of the good things I have. My last post marked a low point, and there wasn’t much of anywhere to go but up. Three weeks ago we welcomed our fourth child, and of course we haven’t slept much since then, but she is a daily reminder of my true vocation: Fatherhood. When the day comes for me to leave this earth, I hope that I won’t have much holding me back. I doubt I will ever find myself with an excess of worldly possessions. However, I do hope that when I stand before God for my judgment I will be able to point to my children as my magnum opus. Whether or not I was successful as a farmer in the past, or whether I am successful in whatever I do to provide financially for my family, I know that the greatest way I provide for my family is through my gift of self. Whatever my job ultimately isn’t all that important when compared to the eternal weight of the souls in my care. Through the past few years of hardships and struggles I slowly forgot why I originally went back to the land. My goal was to be able to be with my family as much as possible, and to teach them to follow Christ through my daily leadership in work and prayer. I admit that at times I failed abysmally at this, yet I know that I must have done some things right. I know this because every time I leave to go somewhere I have to sneak away, and I am always greeted with jubilant “Daddy, Daddy!” and children running out the front door when I return. Thus, I know somewhere along the way I must have done something right. It is in light of this that now, looking back on the past few years I can say it was worth it all. It was worth the grasshoppers, hailstorms, and droughts. It was worth the anxiety and sadness and loss. It was worth it all because of the relationship I have built with my children. They are a reminder of what Christ means when He exhorts us to “Be like children.” It has always been my hope that my children would far exceed me in virtue and goodness. As I watch them grow I see that my hope is not unfounded. I am a farmer, but I am a father first. Whether my crops in the fields grow or die is of much less significance than whether my children wither or prosper. So, though many of our original dreams blew away in the hot southern Kansas wind, I am now ready for the next phase of life. I am ready to move on...

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Thank You

Posted by on Dec 9, 2015 in Posts | 3 comments

Thank You

I’m afraid I will never be able to respond to everyone who responded to my last post. I have been a bit overwhelmed by the number of emails and other contacts I have received. So, I wanted to say thank you to all of you. Your kindness, recommendations, and words have given me much to think about. We love this life that we set out to live. I will never regret my foray into farming. Despite the many hardships, I have a tremendous number of happy memories as well. For now, we will stay put and wait for a baby to come in a month or so. Hopefully, she won’t come before Christmas! Then we will begin taking our first steps forward. Until then we will be patient and wait on the right door. God bless all of you, and keep us in your prayers. Pax,...

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At What Cost?

Posted by on Dec 2, 2015 in Posts | 26 comments

At What Cost?

It’s time for one of those posts where I’m squirmingly honest again. Sometimes you need to put these up to keep everything in perspective. I write this now as I stand at a crossroads again in my life. I stand wondering whether this whole venture into rural life has been worth it. What have I gained? What have I lost? Am I a better man or worse man for having spent five years in close connection to the raw earth. So many questions, so few answers. Where do I go from here? For a while (more than a year now) our family has been discerning our next steps. There has never been a clear path ahead of us since our discernment began. Now, we live in a home that is not our own, and want so desperately to be on our own again. Yet, our journey into farming left us very poor, and barely scraping by. We’ve learned that growing vegetables in St. Leo, KS was a very unwise decision. Everything I now read about vegetables, climate, water, wind, pests all points to the reality that we were in a terrible location to try what we tried. It wasn’t the fault of our economic model (CSA or Community- Supported Agriculture). It wasn’t the result of inexperience, since no organic farmer could have dealt well with the grasshoppers and sixty mph winds made worse by our surroundings of endless monoculture fields left bare during the heat of the summer. It was the wrong place and it was a hard place to do what we were trying. We were in a droughty, windy, isolated area… Lesson learned. Now we are wondering how we start again. We have limited resources and not much direction. I looked into a job in West Virginia that would have been great, if it hadn’t been so terribly rural and far from a good liturgy. We did that in St. Leo and don’t want to repeat it. Now we are considering whether I should just go back to work somewhere, but options there are limited because my degree is in Theology. We are open to moving if God would open a door, but we also need to wait for the entrance of baby #4 in January. We have decided after a year of pigs that they are quite hard on the land even with intensive rotation. They also have a low profit margin due to their extensive eating abilities. They really eat like pigs! We still love the idea of an intensive vegetable farm of about an acre and are learning from the ideas used on the farm: Le Jardins de la Grelinette in Quebec. Yet, we have no way forward. A job might provide us with a cushion while we adjusted into this, but we just aren’t certain, and we don’t have any job options at the moment. Sometimes it feels like I lost so much by becoming a farmer. I can be more pessimistic and depressed than I have ever been. My faith feels weaker than its ever been, and it feels like I’ve been in the crucible for too long. Yet, there is one thing I know I have gained from my time home as a farmer. I have gained the love of my children. I...

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A Reflection on Death, Detachment, and Farming (by Mary Ford)

Posted by on Nov 23, 2015 in Posts | 1 comment

A Reflection on Death, Detachment, and Farming (by Mary Ford)

November is the month that the Church traditionally preaches on and remembers the souls of the dead. Along with that is a constant reminder in Scripture to prepare ourselves for our own final days. This might seem a rather morbid focus, but in reality, it is a time to be sincerely thankful: Christ has conquered death, and our way to Paradise with Him is open! St. Francis of Assisi, one of my favorite saints, went so far as to dub the end of our earthly life as “Sister Death”. He saw death as a welcome friend, because it was the last door to go through to get to our Lord in Heaven. Having said all this, I have to admit that I’ve always struggled a bit with a fear of death and a desire to cling to life. The Benedictine Rule instructs monks to keep death ever before you, and I’ve often found this particular instruction hard to swallow. I’d much rather think of things that give me joy. But, I suppose, that’s just it: death should not be an occasion of sadness, but one of joy. It is the gateway to Heaven and to all of our deepest longings in our sweet Lord. I know that what really needs adjustment is not the Rule, but my own attitude. Fortunately for me, Kevin and I farm. As a farmer, you are constantly exposed to death and dying, from the simple death of the year during fall and winter to the death of one’s animals when it’s time to butcher. Occasionally, as a farmer, you have to face the reality that animals get sick and die, often for unexplainable reasons. Accidents happen; crops die, too, of course, both through harvest and through losses due to climate and weather, pests, and small toddlers ripping up the wrong plants from the garden (no experience there at all; note minor sarcasm). Death happens, and frankly, it’s simply a part of life, ironic as that sounds. I can’t help but think that one reason the world lacks joy today is that the average western person is largely disconnected from death. They are disconnected to the point that they are unable to cope with the thought of death. It’s a natural instinct, of course, to cling to life, but when one clings to it to the point of refusing to acknowledge the reality of death, dying becomes a scary thought. Farming gives you the chance to detach yourselves from the things that make us want to cling to this world too much. After all, while there are many good and wonderful things on this earth, all of those gifts are merely shadows of Heaven. C.S. Lewis dubbed the last chapter of “The Last Battle” in his Chronicles of Narnia series “Farewell to Shadowlands”. He was not simply referring to earth as a place of darkness or shadows, but pointing out that shadows have a source, a better and more Real reality. He portrays the old Narnia as a duller, darker, murkier version of the Heavenly Narnia: “…[The old Narnia] was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here…You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered…have been drawn...

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The Hand on the Plow

Posted by on Jul 28, 2015 in Posts | 20 comments

The Hand on the Plow

I get the feeling that our entire civilization teeters on the edge of a knife. We have created an immense edifice of artificiality that bombards us from every side. REAL HUMAN INTERACTIONS are steadily being replaced by a virtual world. The interactions we do have on a human level are becoming more and more violent and immoral. Where do we go from here? There has been a lot written lately about the Benedict Option. I have written in the past that I feel very strongly that this is a legitimate possibility for the future, albeit not the only possibility. As I read the pages of Laudato Si I am struck by how it resonates with the vision I have for the future of the world. It is unfortunate that so much focus has been put on a few verses about climate change, when indeed there is so much good in the encyclical. It is a call back to real human lives. The Gospel thrives when the world is most human. The middle ages were a time of immense faith and they were times that created the greatest artistic achievements, theological, and philosophical achievements. Now we create almost no art. Our theology is too often little more than sophistry, and our philosophy is one of materialistic individualism leading to nihilism. We must return to our roots if we are to get out of this quagmire! I was reading today Romano Guardini’s book Letters from Lake Cuomo. They are letters written by the good priest upon his return to his home in Italy. It was one of the few places that had not yet industrialized at that time. However, his letters show with distress how technology was destroying human civilization. He noted that the great Christian culture of the middle ages was authentically human in its interaction with technology. There was a limit on what they created, although that limit was hard to put a finger on as even he admitted. Tools and technologies were aids to man’s abilities, not replacements for them. A proper brush allowed for more finesse when painting. A telescope magnified man’s ability to see the heavens, but didn’t replace it. The horse allowed a man to farm a larger acreage, but the horse’s limited stamina kept the man within the bounds of nature. All things were in tune with nature. Fr. Guardini contrasts the sail boat with the motor boat he sees crossing the lake. The sail boat stays directly within the power of man and nature. The motor boat does neither. The boat has a power of its own. The greatest technologies were both human and within the realm of nature, not above her. They worked with her as a child to its mother. Now we act a villain either willfully ignoring nature or overpowering her with our technologies. Every technology has consequences. An old farmer back home once told us that tractors did immense harm to the community. He was old enough to have seen the last of the horse men give in and go to the oil-driven behemoths. Over the next half century he saw the tractors and farms get bigger as more and more farmers were pushed from the land. A tractor does not stay in the direct power of man or nature....

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