Are Catholics Returning to the Land?

Are Catholics Returning to the Land: Farm and Homestead

Are Catholics Returning to the Land?
Chicken Tractor

Is there really some type of movement of Catholics and others seeking out a lifestyle often characterized by a return to the land? Certainly our family would be one such example of a family who has chosen to make a conscious decision to begin a homestead, start farming and otherwise trade our urban dwelling for the countryside. And, from the number of contacts we receive, the continued stories of guests on the Little  Way Farm and Homestead Podcast and the general rise of homesteading and agriculture content across the internet, it would seem reasonable to at least recognize a movement.

Are Catholics Returning to the Land?

In some meaningful way, yes – there are Catholics and others moving to the land. Some people refer to this as returning to the land, as if there is some birthright that is being reclaimed. A cursory study of history reveals a historical telling of societies through millennia that are more characteristic of peasantry farming than high-speed commutes – where exactly some folks might think they are returning to will continue to be a question of suspicion. I say this because it would be quite naïve to suggest that there is some concrete time in history that is characteristic of the most perfect societal establishment that ever once was – this is not the case. No time has been absent of challenge, strife and sin. However, it is clear that the way modern society in the west operates – by commute, hefty tax and legislation burdens, hyper regulation and a life characterized by a pursuit of retirement and weekends – is not normal. So, are Catholics moving to the land? I think it is reasonable to suggest that a great many are at the very least striving for the land.

What is Returning to the Land?

This is a question I hope is asked more often in the future. The internet is saturated, and becoming more so, with beautiful pictures of the homestead and farm lifestyle. In some ways, these are good – we ourselves use such imagery at Little Way Farm and Homestead as a means of inspiration. However, without some greater context, such imagery can be captivating and pose danger. To return to the land is in some ways to accept a more difficult life – one that has the potential to be simpler in that it does not conform to the modern expectations of forty hour work weeks, minute-to-minute scheduling and weekends; however, the trade is for a life that can be dictated by the weather, animals escaping from fencing, broken eggs and water pipes, farm-related injuries and a seemingly never-ending list of chores. To return to the land is to intentionally step away from modern comforts, including the predictability of the workweek in favor of a life that strives to cooperate with nature, albeit cooperate, and not just survive. 

Should Catholics Return to the Land, Begin Homesteads and Farm?

Excusing the conundrum in the phrasing “return to the land” and the weight behind such a phrase, there is good reason to build a lifestyle which is resilient against modern expectations and temporal concerns. In recent times, concern over the quality, safety and accessibility of food has become a hot button topic. Discussion in Catholic circles seems to often include discourse around rejecting modern society (and of course modernism), but in a manner that includes a charge to begin building something new. The opportunities for making the Catholic Faith accessible to children on the homestead are apparent. Often much of what we find in the Church’s Liturgical Cycle provides a stellar backdrop to a life on the homestead – Rogation Days, Ember Days, the Angelus and more. The call to a simpler life is not one of ease – this is nearly certainly not something you will find on the homestead. However, an agrarian lifestyle is one that can readily dispose an individual and family to recognize with awe the power of God, the beauty of His Creation and the wonder that is the gift of Grace He offers us. 

Sunrise through trees on the farm.

Catholic, Homestead, Farm

One of the greatest challenges families new to the homesteading life will encounter is the proper ordering of the homestead. This is critical, and it is something I did not successfully implement when moving my family to the countryside. The order ought to be: Catholic, then Homestead, then Farm. In this order, Farm of course refers to cultivation of the land for others, where homestead is for the family.

Catholic First, then Homestead, then Farm

The temptation is likely to succumb to a sense of fear – societal collapse is imminent and therefore we must effectively build each enterprise to perfect operation as quickly as possible. This is a dangerous mindset and one to be discouraged. The first order of business on the homestead is to rightfully order prayer and a liturgical life within the family – is there peace here? If not, moving to the land will not solve for what is already amess within the family. The Catholic Faith is to be ordered rightfully as a first priority then when building an agrarian life as a Catholic. No minute is guaranteed, if the seeds have not been planted and you take your last breath, the missed harvest will not matter.

The homestead then is second – this being the operations, functions and processes of providing for the family’s sustenance. The scheduling in the day which includes prayer, but also bread making, canning of food, gardening, completion of animal chores, cleaning and more. This includes ensuring a suitable home that provides adequately for the needs of the family.

Lastly – the Farm. Many have a desire to not only move to the land, build a homestead, but also support their family financially with farming or cottage production. This is rightfully ordered last in priority – and for many, while the zeal home-based economics is good, it is important to recognize that many of these pursuits will span generations. You can make a difference in setting that path in motion, but it ought to begin in the rightful order. Catholic, Homestead, Farm.

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