2007 Jr. Agrarian Essays

In 2007 we hosted an essay contest on Restoring the Home Economy. Many folks chipped in and donated money and prizes. They were…

Pastor Tom McConnell
Herrick Kimball
Tom Scepaniak
Cheri Shelnutt
Rick Saenz
Randall Caldwell
Barry & Lynne Morgan

We had many fine essays submitted, these were the winners.

The first place prize was a tie between Karisa Burch and “The Bartlett Brothers” and they both got the following, $70 to spend at Cumberland Books or Vision Harvest and $100 cash to be spent on capital acquisition for an agrarian project.

The second place winner was Jared Grace who got $70 to spend at either store, a $20 gift certificate from Sweet Hollow Farm and a copy of Mr. Kimball’s book, The Writtings of a Deliberate Agrarian.

Here, for your edification, are the essays…..

Restoring the Home Economy
By Jonathan Bartlett (15), Peter Bartlett (13), and Andrew Bartlett (10), and David Bartlett (7)

Within the past one hundred years or so, the United States has seen a massive re-structuring of the economic system. Whereas it used to be based on millions of small home economies, it has become focused on large corporations and factories. If we would simply return to the home economy, the U.S. would see a revival of family-togetherness and a revitalization of the country.

Why is it so important for families to return to this system? In our minds, there are two primary reasons. First of all, a home-based economy is very beneficial to families and neighbors. Each family member plays a vital role in the production of food and products for use on the homestead and in the community. Families using this system are together from sun up to sun down. Neighbors get to know each other, and use the trade-and-barter system of exchange. When someone is in need of assistance, helpful friends are only a phone call away. There are lots of good examples of this in our area. For instance, our neighbor to the north raises sheep but doesn’t have any hay land. We have plenty of hay land but no sheep. Last fall he cut our entire field, baled it and gave us a one third of the bales, and then this spring he will finish the exchange by giving us several sheep. Another example is with one of our neighbors to the east. He doesn’t have much room at the moment for gardening, but he very knowledgeable about how to grow plants and vegetables. We have plenty of room for huge gardens, but not a whole lot of knowledge on how to grow anything (or at least, we didn’t a couple of years ago). You might say we traded the space for knowledge! By using this system we haven’t needed as much cash as we would have otherwise, we have built great relationships, and have learned a lot.

There is another very important reason in favor of home economies. As many people know, we are presently living in a form of involuntary servitude to the Federal Reserve dollar. The paper money that we all use is not worth a cent, and what we have of it is being stolen through taxes and inflation. It is highly probable that the U.S. will suffer from another depression worse than the one back in the 1930’s. If families take steps toward self-sufficiency, they will not feel the effects of the depression as strongly. The Bible itself gives another angle on this reason for family economies. In Revelation 13:17 we read, “And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” If Christians are going to be persecuted for their beliefs and not allowed to participate in the pagan economy, it is important for families to take steps to be prepared! Proverbs 22:3: “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.”

So, you ask, how is our family restoring the family economy?

We moved from Fargo, ND (the largest city in the state), to a homestead 15 miles north of small town Bottineau in late 2004. The 160 acre place we bought did not have any facilities at all; no house, barn, or outbuildings other than an old log cabin in the woods. We were forced to improvise many things. The first animals we bought were two chickens, named Lewis and Cluck. They were both White Rocks. My brothers and I improvised a chicken tractor out of aspen poles and cattail reeds and for almost a year the two chickens lived happily in their strange house. The hen regularly gave us one nice brown egg every day. It was wonderful to finally be able to eat something from our very own farm! Later that same year we were given a goat to milk. Once again, we were forced to improvise and use aspen poles to frame a barn in a stand of black poplar trees down near the lake. But we received a half gallon of our very own milk every day! It was great. We didn’t buy any milk for quite some time. It wasn’t enough for drinking but Mom used it all the time in her cooking. Due to a turn of events, we ended up not having either the goat or the two chickens over the winter. The next year we borrowed a different goat from a friend, and milked her until she dried up. That spring we also bought 25 broiler chickens. We successfully raised them from start to finish. It was our first taste of home grown meat, and once again, it was a wonderful feeling to be eating the fruits of our own labor! We didn’t need to buy any chicken for several months.

We grew our first garden that year. It wasn’t all that big, but it was significantly larger than the ones we had attempted back in the city. After fighting quack grass, weeds, and lack of water all summer long, we harvested all the vegetables. There was corn, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, tomatoes, and pumpkins.

Then in 2006 came our best year yet. I ordered 100 meat chickens. Dad bought two hives of honey bees. We bought five goats and ten turkeys. I got a dozen Buff Orpingtons for eggs. We planted an acre worth of garden, including several hundred raspberry plants. I shot two deer for meat, a couple of ruffed grouse, and Peter shot a wild turkey. Friends of ours taught us how to ice fish, and we had a few meals from that. We helped the same set of friends with the butchering of a few hogs, and got a freezer full of meat as a result.

Now we don’t participate in the faulty money system as much as we used to. We eliminated the medical system from our lives and use herbs and other natural remedies. We don’t pay much for taxes, and we eliminated the heat bill by using a wood stove. The electric bill went down because we use a pre-heat system for our water over the woodstove, and what little cash we do need comes from Dad’s part time job. He works from home on that, so we’re basically together all the time. This coming year, who knows what we’ll do to increase? We ordered a whole bunch of open pollinated seeds, and if all goes well we’ll never have to buy seeds again. I sent in an order form for 60 ‘real’ chickens, both meat breeds and egg breeds, so if everything works right we’ll never buy chickens again. Our billy just froze to death, but if we get another we’ll have all the goat milk we’d ever want. There’s plenty of deer running around so there’s no lack of meat.

How do we plan to pass on the vision of a Christian, agrarian, home economy? When Dad bought this place, he purposely planned on dividing the land into four equal sections for us four Bartlett boys. Our families will always be close by, and we can continue to build the farm into a multi-generational venture. We talk about agrarian topics every day, and Dad never fails to point out the faults of the world’s system and to clarify exactly why we’re doing what we’re doing and why it’s so vitally important. My brothers and I, Lord willing, plan on never returning to the lifestyle we once led, and we plan on telling our children the reasons why!

Karisa Burch


Home Economy Essay

If you had asked me two years ago to define an agrarian I would have guessed it was a farmer who just wanted to make his job sound more philosophical. If you asked me to define multi-generational faithfulness I would have replied that it means flying home every year for Christmas with the parents. Two years ago I thought I had the world completely figured out, my life was planned in a notebook that I kept beside my bed and I was sure of the road that lay before me. I was going to go to college, take my flying lessons and then soar off into the glorious sunset of my future.

This is what the world taught me to expect of life and I accepted it implicitly, never considering that there could be another way to live. Then my parents began to read about another kind of life. This life, my dad explained, claimed to be simple, deliberate and God-centered. A word entered our family vocabulary, a seemingly benign word: agrarianism. If it had to do with corn and cows it couldn’t affect my plans, I thought flippantly. Little did I then consider how volatile this word truly was and how it would cause an upheaval in my long-established ideals and dreams.

That is not to say that now, at the wise age of seventeen I understand all the implications of the agrarian lifestyle or that I am the paragon of multi-generational family faithfulness. I am likely to know the least on these subjects but I do know that the Lord is faithful to teach and give instruction in His perfect timing. With this in mind I will endeavor to share the story of how my world was overturned, shaken and then set right side up.

When I was fifteen I knew I was going to be a political journalist. I was going to go to college, get a Bachelor’s Degree (what responsible citizen could settle for less?) and then travel the world as a lone, shining star on a quest for truth and happiness.

My parents encouraged me in my plans to “be somebody”. I thought those Disney movies that sang, “spread your wings and fly” were speaking to me and I was eager to follow their advice. I saw my family as the world taught me to: a spring board from which I would leap into my destiny.

My family lived in a nice country home and we kept a few chickens, but we envied those lucky people who ran farms and were self-sufficient. Debt was always a black cloud over our rooftop. My parents knew that the Bible made no ambiguities on the subject but, as in all other things, we fell back on the excuse that “it’s just the way modern society is”. Debt, like lonely nursing homes and faraway colleges, was a fact of modern life and had to be accepted. Still, something was stirring in our hearts that wouldn’t allow us to become complacent. We knew we were missing something vital, something we were hard pressed to discover.

One year ago my parents become fully convicted of our debt and we faced a huge dilemma. My dad needed to find a second job or we needed to move. Either way, we needed out of debt and we needed out now. One day my dad had an idea. Why not buy some of his family’s land and live in the country like we had always dreamed?

After much prayer and thought my parents decided to follow this route so that we could live debt free and build up a farm as we had money. Interestingly enough, the abode that filled our need the best was a trailer house. Not just any trailer house, however, but a chocolate brown trailer house.

About the same time this was all happening another important facet of my life was also being unsettled.

My parents stopped encouraging me so keenly in my college plans. My parents were becoming aware that there were methods of learning and achieving goals that didn’t necessarily require four years of building up crippling debt. I began to look at distance learning and other ways of gaining knowledge as an alternative. The new byword of the family was “agrarian” and it sounded pretty dull to me. If it had anything to do with my parents’ decision to drag me into a brown trailer house I wanted no part in it.

That’s what I thought at first, anyway. The Lord moved in my heart over the next several months and I slowly began to understand the light that was drawing my parents out of the system of the world and into the boondocks. I could see the biblical basis for a deliberate, worship-centered life and began to realize that my actions must follow my beliefs. I began to understand, as R. C. Sproul says in Chosen By God, that “I could not, with impunity, love something with my head that I hated in my heart”. Gradually the term “agrarian” became dear to me and now I even dare to call myself a “junior agrarian”. It is impossible to describe in words the enormous scope, including all the small nuances, of how God worked in my family—both individually and collectively. We were reformed and reshaped in nearly every area of our lives and I cannot look back on that time of growth without feeling immensely grateful to God and to those people who encouraged us in our crazy plan to swim against the societal tide we had drifted along with for so long.

At present, my dream is exactly the same as my parents’ and my brothers’ dream. We desire to build up a homestead, a working farm that will remain stable and functional for many generations after us and provide blessing for all those we come in contact with. I no longer desire to leave my home as soon as I graduate. Two years ago I would have scoffed at the idea of staying home to help start any kind of family business, let alone a multi-generational one. Now, though perhaps more local, my dreams are brighter and more hopeful. I see that I am not just a passing comet. I am a daughter, a sister and a friend tied closely to those lives that surround me. I will never lose my passion for writing nor will I ever be able to give up my enthusiasm for politics. I have simply submitted these things to the Lord for His timing and glory.

As I write I am sitting in our chocolate brown trailer house. This home is a true blessing to me despite its old carpets and thin walls. Today my dad and brothers finished building a shed for the four nanny goats I purchased two weeks ago. My first “agrarian venture” will be in the realm of milk, cheese and soap. I have my recipe books ready and am very excited to learn how to make quality food for my family. Today we also completed many of the bedding boxes and rows in our garden. I am chief-organizer of the Garden Planning Committee and am excited to start planting. My dad desires our family to become more self-sufficient and hopes to soon raise our own beef, swine and turkeys. Our chickens have multiplied greatly and my mother has a nice customer base for her natural, farm fresh eggs. Since my grandparents live only a short distance from us we are able to walk over, visit and help them with their farming projects more often than if we were still near town. Now that we live nearby they look forward to staying on their farm longer in their old age than they could have if they lived out here alone. Now we have a chance to see that the farm never passes out of our family. Within the next few years we hope to begin debt-free construction of our home and we are all excitedly conjuring up house plans and sharing ideas.

This house will not be as large or as elaborate as our old home but it will be built by our own hands and we will build it up as a family ought: together.

I used to believe that to change one’s dream is to fail. Now I see that a “dream deferred” can be a great gain. Multi-generational faithfulness is more than caring for aging parents. It cannot be achieved in an afternoon visiting the nursing home with your children, nor can you pursue it while remaining thousands of miles apart from your family. It means submitting your own wishes to the will of the Lord and living selflessly for the preservation of the Christian family economy. It means looking on others as more important than yourself and never ceasing to grow in humility and faithfulness. Community and fellowship must be placed above selfish pursuits and self-aggrandizement. A God-fearing home economy is a sacrificial lifestyle, a path that the world scorns as archaic and weird. Little does the world realize that the rampant isolation and loneliness of modern man could be solved in this biblical pattern of life. God established it to prosper the family unit, grow the church and spread His truth throughout the world. There is no greater witness to the lost and lonely than a family, church and community living in a multi-generational and God-fearing fashion. When you see children revere and love the elderly in this modern, youth-obsessed culture you know that you’ve run across something singular and worthy of close inspection. By love and action will the world be conquered for God’s glory and not by heroic individuals wielding light-sabers. His kingdom shall come through biblical families working together in unity.

I have only begun to walk this path and hope to pursue it for the rest of my life. I will continue writing and learning and I hope to do it in such a way that glorifies God and is a blessing to my family and community. I don’t have my life planned out in a notebook by my bed anymore. Sometimes I falter and look back toward my old plan with all its glitter and heave a sigh. However, these moments don’t last long because I know that there is something better in store for me than this world’s ephemeral promises. I know that the Lord is faithful and will reveal His plan to me in His good timing. My purpose in this life to live for God’s glory and all the other details will be added unto me as He sees fit. That’s a very comforting thought. I don’t need to chase after the sunset to find His will, nor do I need to sacrifice my principles in order to help His plan along. I only need to wait patiently for the Lord, strive after His wisdom as for gold and, as Martin Luther once quipped, “milk [my goats] to the glory of God”.

Jared Grace

Christian Living

Home economy is focusing on the family and the home. It is also about raising your own resources on the farm. Home economy is important because it gives you more time to spend as a family. My father has chosen a job that allows him to be home 15 or more days a month so we can spend more time with him. We are trying to make a better home economy by building up the health and quality of our farm, diversifying, making value-added products, and direct marketing.
Our family home- schools and works on our small farm that we are renting from our grand parents. Our main income from the farm is our sheep and chickens. We have Icelandic sheep, which are good for their wool, pelts, milk, bones, and meat. We entered a fleece contest last year and won some prize money, then sold the fleeces to hand-spinners. We wash the fleeces ourselves, then pick and card them. My sisters and I help with this. Then my Mother spins the wool and sells the yarn, sweaters, and socks. I also use the yarn for weaving. I am planning to make a woven rug this year and if it is good, I will make more to sell. My sister, Aleena uses the carding scraps to make needle-felted animals, which she sells. My responsibilities are feeding the sheep hay and minerals, bringing them fresh water, and feeding our guardian dog, Hannibal. I also help plan breeding and marketing the meat.
My sister, Aleena, cares for the chickens and helps sell those products. We get eggs and meat to eat and sell. When we raise the meat chickens in the summer, we all help move the pen with Mom and Dad. When butchering day comes, we all pitch in. Dad kills them and dunks them. My sisters and I pluck the chickens. Then my Grandmother and Mother clean them. We take orders for the chickens in the spring from friends at church and in the community. We direct market our products so we can have personal contact with our customers and to tell them about God. Our farm is all-natural. We don’t use any pesticides or chemicals. We want to keep our farm healthy for ourselves and our customers. People are more interested in healthy, organic food and that is what we are trying to provide.
We also have a garden. We haven’t sold any products from it yet but we eat the vegetables, can, freeze, and dry them for winter. My Dad and I hoed and set up blocks for raised beds this year. We all help with planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting. Gardening helps us realize what God has provided for us. It saves us money and is healthier for us because it is fresh and natural.
My other sister, Madeline takes care of the angora rabbits and we pluck the rabbits for fiber. This is sold or made into yarn too. Madeline is learning how to dye wool, knit, and crochet, and hopes to makes products to sell too.
Even though I am only 10 years old, I hope to raise sheep and support a family with a home economy. I realize that it takes time and sacrifice, and contentment.
We don’t make a living on our farm yet but I think its good to have a farm not just for money but for enjoying God’s creation and learning to love each other and be best friends. In all I think home economy is a better way of living and thinking.


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