One of the first things Jeff Rarick told me when I approached him for an interview was, "I'm not looking to start a movement."
A movement is just what he is part of, though - he's a prime example of a young Christian who is drawn to growing food for the purpose of helping the poor.
He's not thinking small, either. He's got the use of (and insurance for) 10 acres across the street from his church that he's set to turn over and start planting when his hometown near Syracuse, NY thaws out. And he's got over 100 volunteers from his church and community raring to make his dream of growing food for the Salvation Army a reality.
Jeff is no clean-cut farm kid, which makes his transformation into the leader of this ambitious project all the more remarkable. In his younger days, he was known more for repeated drunk driving incidents--including one that almost killed him--than for responsibly overseeing a $19 thousand farm budget and answering to a Board of Directors. His is an inspiring story, and I for one look forward to seeing how it unfolds as the weather turns warmer.
Meet Jeff in these highlights from our e-conversation about the Matthew 25 Farm:
How did you come up with the idea to grow food for the poor?
As the Bible says in Acts 2:17, "In the last days your young men will see visions." And I have had my share of them. One that happened often was of the future, with me feeding people with food I grew on a farm. There were acres planted and many people stayed with me because they had no place to go. Up until this new year, these were just dreams and visions.
With a hurting economy and a new church my parents had planted, I decided to try and start a garden for the poor. It was sown on my heart by God, and I figured if He is for it, it will succeed. If not, then that's life.
I started by finding a source to give food away: the Salvation Army. Then God put it on my heart to grow 10 acres, but I only had 2. But my faith was increasing and I did not doubt. So I called many, patiently. Then, several weeks later God literally dropped a Christian in my lap that had land that he would loan me for free. After I located the property I saw how big the miracle was-- it is hidden directly across the street from the church, on a lovely hillside. If it got any closer it would have bitten me in the backside! Many more blessing have come in such as tractor loans and the such.
Why do the farming through the church? Why not do it as a secular agricultural project?
I am a Christian, a citizen of The Kingdom of Heaven, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. My mind and soul are already in Heaven. So to do anything secular is a waste of time, but to do something here on Earth that glorifies Jesus and can show people that God is alive and tangible is certainly worthwhile.
What has been the biggest challenge in getting your project off the ground?
My biggest problem is a small lack of faith at times. Even though I can see so much, the devil is always trying to get me (us) to doubt. And I am faced with some opposition from fellow Christians who are...jealous? Others try to give Godly advice, but are really only giving me their own personal opinion vs. a word the the Lord has given through them. That is tough, especially when you love them a lot.
What do you think is the biggest misconception most people have about Christians farming and growing food?
Some think I am a socialist, others a hippie. But I am just a Christian who is following my orders from God. Nothing more. I have no interest in personal fame or glory. I am not trying to start a movement. I'm just working with one that has been rolling for 2000+ years.
Are you an experienced farmer/gardener? Where does this passion come from for you?
I am not an experienced gardener. Well, I do have a garden the size of a house that feed the family. And I grow wine grapes too. I used to grow things that that Big Brother really frowns over, and was really good at it. So, I suppose I do have some experience.
And this passion is from God. In Revelation 20:11-15, among other places, the Bible makes it clear that every human being will have to stand before God, as Judge. Every thought, action, and word said will be looked over. So, since I know I will be there I better do a decent job while here on Earth so I won't be ashamed then. My past is forgiven, that's the purpose of Jesus. So, I only need to try and do my best forever.