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Horticulture by: Nathanael

Zechariah hilling potatoes.

Zechariah hilling potatoes.

First hand benefits of growing our own food.

I interviewed a number of very local farmers and learned why their family grows their own food. Liking the testimonials so much, I decided to leave all these spontaneous answers just as I received them even if there is a bit of overlap. Most of these testimonials were written without knowing what other people had previously answered. Honestly, I didn't give any prompting when I asked these questions. These answers, even if they don't sound quite original from a young person, are how we live and talk everyday. So,

What do you see as benefits of growing our own food?

Caleb picking squash bugs.

Caleb picking squash bugs.


You don't have to pay nearly so much.

It makes it so you don't get nearly so lazy.

That I get to climb and pick more apples and that is very exciting. And I get to use the hoe. It's exciting because I don't usually get to use it and it's much easier.

Sometimes I see a snake and I can tell you lots of stories, like the toad under Sarah's garden.

Ammi shucking corn.

Ammi shucking corn.


We enjoy working up both the vegetables and the fruits. And if farmers get chemicals in their food, we still have what we grew.

Joanna picking green beans.

Joanna picking green beans.


There are not nearly so many chemicals, which means we will be healthier than we would be if we bought all our food from the store. If we did buy all are food from the store it would get awfully expensive. Over all I think it is much healthier and less expensive to grow our own food.

Julia weeding corn.

Julia weeding corn.


The different tasks assigned us require us to work hard and have diligence.

As we are working we get lots of fresh air and sunshine.

The use of a knife for extended periods of time teaches it's most effective use quickly.

The crops we put up are nearly chemical free.

At a close range each of us can examine God's creation.

Zechariah helps Calbe drive the tractor.

Zechariah helps Calbe drive the tractor.


Well, most obviously it allows us to know and control what goes into the food that we eat and the quality of the food is much higher. It is also a good tool for teaching many character qualities such as diligent, perseverance, faithfulness, thoroughness and many others like these. It also shows consequences when we do not do our necessary work. Like if we do not pick the potato bugs, the plants die and we get no potatoes.

Sarah planting.

Sarah planting.


There are a multitude of benefits derived from producing your own fruits and vegetables. One of the greatest benefits I see to our family is that we spend so much time together, working in the gardens and orchard and caring for the produce they provide. The people you spend your time with can become your very best friends, and in our family that has been the case. We spend a lot of time together working for the benefit of the whole family and we have the opportunity to cultivate strong family ties. Some of the best times we've had together have been around the kitchen table working up a big day's harvest of corn or peaches or green beans and laughing and telling stories while we work. We have a great time. In our family we've chosen to live our lives together and we enjoy the time we spend in our gardens working side by side with our very best friends.

Nathanael prepares potato rows while others plant.

Nathanael prepares potato rows while others plant.


The garden and orchard are excellent places for children to learn responsibility, as specific tasks are delegated to us. Providing also a perfect training ground to learn how to hedge and focus thoughts. While not all garden work allows free thought time, there is a lot, which has shown me how little self-control over my thoughts I posses, and thus forced me to rely on Jesus Christ's empowering more.

Personally I think this project can teach much about voluntary service to family members.

Hannah picks beans.

Hannah picks beans.


I think that one of the greatest benefits of gardening (after those of hard work, diligence, responsibility, and delegating assignments) is the exceptionally tasty produce we get to eat. There is no comparison between home grown peaches and grocery store peaches, home grown tomatoes and corn and grocery store tomatoes and corn.

We spoil ourselves.

All the free thought time available is wonderful for praying and memorizing, while working produce up provides lots of time to talk together. One general observation about hard work that many people have commented on is the lack of bickering between the children. In our experience fully occupied time results in happier children.

Jeremiah shucks corn.

Jeremiah shucks corn.


The garden and the orchard both provide multiple benefits, the ones that stand out to me are

1)      Labor - it takes a lot of work to grow food. From picking rock to planting seeds, from weeding to harvest - it takes a lot of hard work

2)      Health - as we are in complete control of what goes into the garden, we control what goes into our bodies. We seek to maintain basic organic standards, with spray-saver at the worst. This cuts the harsh chemicals in our diets.

3)      Allegorical - having seen firsthand the features of an agrarian life, we can easily visualize much of the teaching of the Bible. The Parables and Proverbs mean so much more when taken from first hand experience.

Overall the Gardens have been a definitely positive input into our lives. We produce about 75% of what we eat right here at home.

Cheryl weeds the carrots.

Cheryl weeds the carrots.


Since the benefits of having a garden and orchard are many, I will touch on them only breifly. The benefits fall unto three broad catagories: 1)food for us 2)food for others and 3)education.

When you grow your own food, you determine what you get, not only the varieties but also the maturity and the chemical load. We understand the value of organic food so we keep our gardens as close to organic as possible. This encourages God's army of helpers - the beneficial insects. When a farmer prepares a crop for the market, he must select varieties that can be picked early and safely shipped. These will of course sacrifice much in flavor and nutritional value. For the home garden and orchard we are only limited by our particular zone and situation (side of hill/dessert...). Therefore, the home gardener/orchardist has a full range of varieties - many of which are unavailable to the grocery market client. Once grown, you are in control of the harvest, so you may pick your crop at the maturity of your choice. We like our summer squash under mature and our freezer corn over mature - because we grow our own, the choice is ours.

White potatoes are one of the most chemical laden crops in the grocery industry, so we always try to grow our own. We hand pick bugs in order to limit chemical usage. That is simply not possible on vast acreage farms.

There are two other aspects of home production of food for our own use. First, it contributes to our health twice, once as we work hard to produce and harvest it and again when we eat it. Second, by growing your own you can more economically produce larger quantities of food. As a single income family, in certain seasons of life we have more time than money, esp. the season when all the children are young. So a garden is a good economic choice.

Cheryl brings in the vegetables.

Cheryl brings in the vegetables.

This final point naturally takes us into the next category: food for others. When the harvest is abundant we have some to share with others in need and often some to sell to others-and offset the yearly monetary outlay. This is not to imply that we don't share in meager years, but abundance does open new doors of opportunity. Of course, if land and time are available, produce is a wonderful business opportunities for the whole family. We personally, seldom sell any of our produce, but on the few occasions where we have, there have been lessons to learn.

The final, and overwhelmingly the largest, area of discussion is the educational value of gardens and orchards. Physical labor is not only commanded in the scriptures, it is also associated with character development and the understanding of biblical principles, therefore it is an ideal medium for personal growth.

Children need to be busy (idle hands and minds...). They have limited skills and quantities of time so we try to keep our children productively active. The best way to do this is through mentorship. Monitorship has the side benefits of learning teamwork, being under authority, and cultivating leadership skills. At first you are the mentor but as the years pass and more children are added to the family, roles change. So children are mentored and later go on to mentor others. The perfect educational plan. Of course it must be monitored or we may just mentor poor skills instead of good ones.

Nathanael prepares squash for dinner.

Nathanael prepares squash for dinner.

Garden work is particularly practical because these are jobs subtable for all ages. Once a child can walk, he can work in the garden and as long as a person can still talk or snap a bean there is work for the elderly.

Gardens are ideal science laboratories, where a child learns the relatedness of life: from the reproduction of plants to the purpose of bees, from the cycle of 02 and C02 to the purpose of compost, from the reason for tilling to the proper time of harvest. A garden is an amazing learning experience. It is a look at life on this planet in miniature.

Then too, a garden is a theological classroom. We have the biblical picture of the sower and seed lived out in animation. We have the clarification of the vine and the vine keeper - and pruning! Don't forget the Proverbs, "Go to the ant, O sluggard"... "A wise son is he who tills in autumn..." Our Lord Jesus Christ lived in an agricultural society so His Word is life with truth cloaked in word pictures from the gardens and vineyards of His day. These can be experienced and imbibed in the garden as no where else.

But don't stop there, what does His word say of harvesting from an orchard? About when to till your land? About rest for the weary? Even about what to plant in your ground. Surely the Creator of this planet knows best how to manage it. Discuss these Biblical principles as you work - give them (the words) life for your children, for only life begets life (physically and spiritually).

Mom works on dinner.

Mom works on dinner.

Even monetary value can be learned in a garden. Children will remember all the work it took to produce one bushel of potatoes - let them sell it and see if the money will hold new value to them (it did for Almanzo). All of life involves transactions of labor for money or things. Connect the dots for them while they are still young.

The life of a farmer (gardener/orchardist) is a life of faith. He prepares the ground in hope and at the appointed time he sows the seed but then he must wait for God to give the sunshine and the rain. Only then can he hope in a harvest.

Yes, this is all hard work - good, hard work and the sweat of the brow. It builds confidence and self-respect. It cultivates a wide variety of both skills and knowledge. It delays gratification and instills value in what we have so we do not waste. It builds a good work ethic and allows each man to eat from the produce of his own hands, and it gives strong muscles and good, sound sleep. What more could you ask for from a task. God was so wise when He designed the World for our good!

Grab a hoe- there's work to be done! Enjoy.

Craig does the heavy tilling.

Craig does the heavy tilling.


Numerous are the benefits of gardening and many are not related to the food we get. The parallels between horticulture and the Christian Life lend many fine examples and instruction in godly living. Sin may be compared to weeds, bugs, and plant diseases. Diligence required in the garden mirrors the discipline required in the Christian life. Little sins and weeds soon become big sins and big weeds if left undealt with. Jesus often used agriculture as illustrations in His parables. Gardening offers opportunities for each family member to serve one another and to learn to take responsibility. It also proclaims the benefits of hard work. It is a reminder that part of the curse is thorns and thistles and sweat of our brow. We also experience the wonders of creation as we cooperate with God as He sends rain and sunshine and gives life to seeds which fall into the ground and die, and bring forth fruit for sustenance. We have opportunity to share of the first fruits with others and to realize the effect of a sabbatical year, which reminds us of one day of rest in seven, which reminds us of God's creation taking six days and His ordinance to rest the seventh day.

Zechariah plants potatoes.

Zechariah plants potatoes.

In addition to these things we also produce superior food to that available in the store, both in flavor and in quality. We are in control of the chemical usage and can use as much or little as we like.

Could I say it any better than the people who actually do the work and receive the benefits?

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