by Max Becher March 04, 2022 3 min read 2 Comments

I created this site four years ago under the name "Young Catholic Farmers," with the desire to provide the kind of support I was looking for in my late teen years. At the time, I struggled to integrate my faith with an intense yearning to farm.  Life has been busy, and let's just say I haven't had the time I hoped to devote to this site.  It's languished for three years, during which time I uprooted my young family from our California home and relocated to Maine as part of our journey toward the family farm, "Forward to the land."

 

Although largely neglected, I left the site online, and once or twice a month I would get an email through the contact page from someone who found the site, appreciated it, and were even actively searching for mentorship opportunities on a farm from Catholics who shared their faith.  Family life, work obligations, and the long task of resettling in a new area often prevented me from replying to these inquiries with the detail and care I would have wished for.  If any of you reading this post are one who contacted me, I apologize for my lack of communication.

 

Be assured, I have read and saved all the messages I received, and they have encouraged me to put aside time to develop this site to better serve the hundreds if not thousands of young (and not so young) Catholics who are attracted by genuine rural culture.  If this site, with no promotion, generated several scores of inquiries over the last few years, I know there are many more kindred spirits out there.

 

After much prayer, I have determined to prioritize time for developing this site into more than just a smattering of web pages created impulsively.  I believe this is too important and too relevant to be neglected.  Particularly in the wake of the social fallout of the 2020 pandemic response, I see more people waking up to the fact that society is highly fragile for having neglected its vital cell (the family) for so long.  And the agrarian lifestyle offers hope for the family in the 21st century, as it always has.

 

To be sure, many Catholics, especially those who have clung to their Catholic identity over the last several generations, have maintained a sense of the importance of the family unit.  And certainly Catholics are not alone in this regard.  A significant percentage of our country still believes in what are now quaintly termed "family values."

 

But what exactly are these "family values?"  Have we Catholics, who champion the banner of family values, been immune to the social changes of the 20th century which have both intentionally and unintentionally undermined the health of the family cell?  Have we been the proverbial "frog in slowly boiling water", with the temperature rapidly approaching 200° in the early 21st century?  Have we really sufficiently questioned the comfortable, pleasureful, slow insidious death of consumerism, which surreptitiously eats away at the functions and resiliency of the family cell?

 

Over the past decade, I have come to understand the point of departure for the "Catholic farming" or "Catholic rural Life" movement as a tension between the productive family household and consumerism.  A vague dream to farm in my childhood has thus far matured into an intellectual and cultural journey to discover the ultimate "WHY" of the intentional Catholic family homestead.  That WHY lies in the fact that a healthy family is one that abides in a household imbued with the functions proper to a family, and those functions flourish in a special way on the homestead.

 

As I write more over the coming weeks and months, I will discuss the productive household at length, and its consequences for family life.  Much of the content on this site at the present moment was created more from the mindset of a commercial farm (one that grows crops for sale) rather than the productive household.  This shift in mindset reflects my own journey, which started as a budding commercial farmer in my twenties, and later took on a broader understanding of the family homestead.  The two are in no way opposed, and I believe that content created four years ago is still useful, so I am leaving it in place for the time being.  But the future trajectory of this site and blog will be broader than merely the commercial farm, for a farm need not sell anything to benefit the family that works it’s land.


2 Responses

Ardella Crawford
Ardella Crawford

August 16, 2022

Have you read The Importance of the Rural Life According to St. Thomas Aquinas by Fr. George Spetz (from mid-20th century)? Very important book and the main reason we moved into the country to have a little farm of our own. I think it will raise some other reasons in your mind as to why the farm life is the best way to live real Catholic social teaching.

Greg Carbone
Greg Carbone

March 24, 2022

Hi Max,

I just want to let you know that I like what you’re doing and wish you success. I was introduced to your very interesting effort here by Fr. Paul Dumais, of the Farmington parish and a personal friend. I’m a recently retired clinical psychologist, and my wife, Diane, and I do some modest farming at our home in North Yarmouth, mostly for personal consumption and physical/gustatory/spiritual satisfaction, and we are recent converts to the Catholic Church. One of the primary reasons we ended up raising our family in Maine, incidentally, is an attachment that developed while going to Colby, not too far from where you are now, I think. And, for that matter, a number of my classmates there became part of the 1970’s version of what you may now be doing.

Our kids are grown and out of the home, living nearby, two in North Yarmouth and one who, along with her husband and 4 young boys, owns an organic vegetable farm (3-bug Farm) in Lincolnville, so we’re very involved in a family journey that sounds somewhat similar to yours. We entered the Church in 2010, but so far none of the kids are more than non-denominational Christians (which is still better than we raised them to be). The farmers, however, will be homeschooling next year and have become close friends with other Catholic home-schooling families, so we’re particularly hopeful about them, in addition to praying for them all to find their way to the Church eventually. I sent your link along to them, thinking it might be a bit of a help.

The other thing that prompted me to write is that Diane and I recently bought a second home in Vienna, outside of Farmington, thinking it would be at least an investment and family gathering place but also with an eye toward a future that I think you are describing, an increased emphasis on rural life in which subsidiarity, more self-sufficiency, family and community, and retreat from a deteriorating culture all play a part. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately given our age and limited time and energy, we were not able to find the perfect place. The house and view and dead-end location are near perfection, but we don’t have much in the way of good farmland, so we plan to keep doing most of our growing in North Yarmouth for the time being. Not that any of what I’m saying here prompts immediate comparisons to what you’re doing or your website, but it has always been in the back of my mind that part of that Vienna purchase was to maintain the potential for a place that could function as a retreat, not just for us and our kids and grandkids, but also for other Catholics, for example religious or those involved in liturgical music or writing.

Whether any of those notions bear fruit over time remains to be seen and will, I think, be mostly determined by what needs or callings emerge or do not. For now, I just thought I should say hello and let you know that I enjoyed reading what you wrote.

God bless,
Greg Carbone

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