The Church is made up of Christians from a myriad of different professions, and yet ‘ordinary’ tales of God at work rarely get told. In this new series, we bring you stories of faith on the front line
I’m Jon Gantlett, an organic farmer on the Oxfordshire-Wiltshire border. Ours is a mixed farm. We’ve got dairy cows and sheep, we grow crops and are adding some diversifications, including cottages and solar panels.
Farming isn’t really something you fall into. It often comes through the generational line or family connections. I studied rural business and farm management before coming back to the farm full-time in 2000.
It isn’t an easy job. It never stops. Cows have to be milked every day, including Christmas, Easter and bank holidays. The economics of farming have always been difficult – prices are shooting up, and that’s tough. But it’s a great job, especially when the sun is out, the birds are singing and you’re walking in fields, praying and seeing the glory of God in creation.
I try to see everything as part of God’s kingdom – the land, the buildings, the vehicles, all of it. Stewardship of the land is so important. We’re trying to grow crops and raise animals, but we want all ecosystems to thrive – so we try to protect the wildlife and grow habitat that suits them. We also make space available for other people – we host The Gathering, a Christian festival for men, for example.
The farm is organic, so we don’t use sprays or fertiliser and have higher levels of welfare for the animals. This is regenerative farming. If the land can’t produce a crop because we’re pushing it too hard, it will let us know by not growing it. We put on farmyard manure, which stimulates growth, but that’s all part of God’s creative cycle. It’s a shame that consumers don’t get to see the real benefits they pay for with organic produce, including on wildlife.
Integrity is crucial. We try to run our farm in a way that models God’s character to the individuals and organisations we work with. We don’t do any work that isn’t essential on a Sunday out of a desire to give staff time to rest and be with their families.
There are plenty of challenges for farmers just now – the ending of subsidies, climate change, rising prices. Pray for me to act wisely and hold everything lightly. It’s all God’s!
Jon Gantlett was speaking to Paul Woolley