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Pastor conducts 'growing' ministry to help farmers

8/11/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

A UMTV video report of this story, "That's My Farmer," is available at

A UMNS Feature By Nancye Willis*

Support your local farmer, the Rev. John Pitney tells his congregation in Eugene, Ore. With family farms becoming more of an endangered species, his crusade is appreciated by people on both sides of the field.

More than 50 families in Pitney's congregation at First United Methodist Church have signed up for a Community Supported Agriculture program. At the beginning of each growing season, these community shareholders contract to buy produce directly from local farms that don't use synthetic pesticides or fertilizer.

Pitney says "people from 10 churches, including ours," put up about $50,000 per year to cover the anticipated farming costs. In return, they receive shares in farm produce.

The 250 consumer families involved in the program believe they are helping to free farmers from worries about going further into debt because of weak crops. They also are reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production.

Jane Brolsma, a member of First Church, paid up front for a season of fresh, locally grown produce. "I like feeling good about my purchases and how they impact people as well as the planet," she says.

Along with getting farm-fresh produce, helping to keep family farms and the local economy afloat, and protecting the soil, water and air, the program cultivates good, old-fashioned interaction, says farmer Jabrila Via of Eugene.

"These are the kinds of connections you don't get doing wholesale. You don't meet the people; the people don't meet you. So you're building community," she adds.

"The little things that we do together now, we have to believe that they'll make a difference for generations," Pitney says. It's a concept he hopes will take root and grow.

The idea of Community Supported Agriculture originated in the 1960s in Switzerland and Japan and was introduced in the United States in the mid-1980s. More than 400 U.S. farms receive support through the program.

More information about First United Methodist Church in Eugene is available at the church's Web site Additional information about Community Supported Agriculture is available at, a Web site of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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*Willis is editor of the Public Information Team at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tenn.

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