Growing numbers of people around the world are worried about the food supply - and they should be. World population is growing, but the number of people farming is diminishing. Today, less than 5% of Americans make their living from farming. Who is going to grow all the food necessary to feed these billions of people? This does not even take into account concerns about genetic manipulation of food crops and the decreasing nutrition in the food we do grow.
Perhaps what is fading fastest is the family farm. People have been leaving the land and moving to the cities, losing contact with the very soil from which humanity was created. Many children today - and even some adults - are like the young girl who, upon visiting a farm for the first time, asked her mother, "Why don't these people buy all their food at the grocery store like everyone else?" Too many modern people just do not know how important the land is to their lives.
Consider what America is doing. Bigger is better, right? If all one is interested in is money, that may be true, but if the land is of first concern, it is patently false. Bigger farms mean bigger fields - and the potential for the wind blowing the topsoil away. On May 11, 1934, at a time when huge farms were the norm in the country's midsection, 300 million tons of topsoil blew away over western Kansas and parts of neighboring states. Each year, tons of topsoil are still being blown away due to corporate farming practices.
What about chemical fertilizers? They are moneymakers - for the chemical companies. Chemical fertilizer is like a shot in the arm for the soil. Crops grow well afterward - at first - but then comes the downside. The chemicals destroy the organic life of the soil, eventually leaving it hard and dead. When the soil is dead, it is at risk for water erosion and thus more loss of soil. Organic soil, on the other hand, contains humus, which acts like a sponge to hold water.
And feed lots to raise hundreds or thousands of livestock at once? Is that not efficient? Perhaps it is, if the only aim is to produce meat for profit. However, this practice does nothing for the land, and it is harmful to the animals - and could pass along disease to humans. When 10,000 head of cattle stand and feed in their accumulated waste, the potential for disease is astronomical (meaning it has to be controlled by drug injections), and valuable, natural fertilizer necessary to build up the increasingly deficient soil goes to waste.
It is not hard to see that man has not been a good steward of the gift and responsibility God gave him to "tend and keep" the earth (Genesis 2:15). He has polluted the air, land, and water he needs to live. In his greed, he has misused the precious resources at his disposal. God promises that there will be a reckoning for this (Revelation 11:18).
What could the earth be like if man worked in harmony with God's instructions on this matter? What will the earth look like, say, fifty years into the Kingdom of God, when the hearts of men are on God's ways and love of neighbor is a way of life? The Bible indicates people will be back on the farm. Micah 4:4 tells us that every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, meaning that everyone will have the opportunity to own his own land. Jeremiah 31:12 says that the goodness of God will result in "wheat and new wine and oil, . . . the young of the flock and the herd." Amos 9:13-14 predicts:
"Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. . . . They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them."
Micah 4:3 is the famous verse about beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. This means that people will be able to look forward to enjoying the crops they plant, secure in the knowledge that no one or no invading army will steal or destroy them. In the longer term, a farmer will be able to build up the soil of his farm over many years, bequeathing a productive, prosperous inheritance to his children and grandchildren.
How might life be lived at that time? Perhaps 80% of people will live on the land, farming, ranching, or producing fruit. Towns will be small, perhaps most composed of less than a thousand people, and everyone will know everyone else. Necessary services will be within a short distance, many within walking distance. Industry and retail will be smaller and more localized. Most farms will be about twenty acres or so, depending on what it is used to grow. Four acres of well-cared-for land will supply food for a large family and then some. Crops will vary, along with some livestock and chickens for meat and fertilizer, as well as some fruit trees.
Long, hot days in the sun will be a thing of the past, as families will not be in a mad rush to grow crops for cash. Four hours of labor each day will be the normal workday, excepting planting and harvest times, leaving time for other interests. Because the acreage will be smaller, farmers will not have to reap fifty acres of peaches that have all ripened at the same time or pick a hundred-acre crop of cotton in two days. A farmer at the time will likely put about 10% or so of his acreage into a cash crop for needed purchases, and the rest will be for his family's food.
Crops will be rotated to build up the soil, as the roots of different crops grow to varying depths, use different nutrients, and add differing elements to the soil when they decompose. This practice will help with pesky insects too. People will learn to live in harmony even with insects, as 90% of them are helpful to the growing cycle. The other 10% will be controlled naturally, not with indiscriminate and hazardous pesticides.
Each seventh year there will be no planting, letting the soil rest (Leviticus 25:4). How pleasant it will be, as families will take the time to travel, work on family projects, study a subject intently, or spend the year helping others in their need. Besides this, every seventh day, the whole farm - family and animals - will rest as God has commanded. With everyone pitching in, the Sabbath milking would take only about a half-hour - and then all will get cleaned up and be on their way to Sabbath services to learn God's ways.
This is just a glimpse at how wonderful life will be on a farm in God's Kingdom. Pray that that day will not be long in coming. The way things are going now, it should not be too far away. Nevertheless, we have something to look forward to, a time when we will live at peace with God and His law, with our neighbor, and with the land, working with nature, giving not just taking. Then, farming will be an honorable profession.
- James Kelley