"We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”
–Pope Francis, Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home. p. Ch 4, #139.

As spring is upon us, so is an important season for farmers. The end of winter brings a time for sowing new seed that will germinate in warming soil, bringing a harvest for late spring and early summer. As a theologian farmer, one cannot help but be reminded of the journey beginning in the book of Genesis. In the beginning, God created the universe and with it Earth, teeming with nature. Human beings are part of that nature, created from the dust of Earth, from the mud brimming with biological life. What is so important to remember from this narrative is the interconnected and interdependent relationship nature has with humanity. From this perspective there is no separation between any aspect of creation. Humanity and nature live in a symbiotic relationship, one unable to exist without the other.

The narrative unfolds with the fall of humankind, which can be interpreted as a great forgetting. Humanity forgot that it was born from the Earth. Humanity forgot it was created in the image of God. Humanity forgot its primary responsibility to care for creation. With this great forgetting, humanity forgot itself as ha adamah, the one who comes from the Earth’s soil.

As a process farmer it is essential that I understand this deeply in the midst of my daily work. As I dig the earth, sow seed, and wait patiently for harvest, I remember again my oneness with all creation. Even in a simple backyard raised bed or potted balcony garden, one can be urged into this Great Remembering. I am motivated in my work, understanding acutely that reality is made up of change, is dynamic, always in the process of becoming, interdependent and exhibiting considerable spontaneity.

Today we continue to live in a world of forgetting. We have separated ourselves from non-human creation, no longer seeing ourselves as one with nature. We have wrongly interpreted the scripture from Genesis, focusing heavily on "dominion over." We have taken this notion of dominion and used it in many ways that abuse nature. Now we find ourselves in the predicament of climate catastrophe and on the verge of human extinction. It is imperative that we remember where we came from, who we are, and the role we play in this great ecosystem called planet Earth.

While modern, industrial farming has segregated itself from indigenous farming practices, urban communities, family, and spirituality, process farming pursues a holistic worldview, connecting the intuitions of revitalization, biology, horticulture, agriculture, permaculture, community, and spirituality. Process farming seeks to integrate all of these in the farming process, seeking to heal humanity's broken relationship with creation and the intimate production of food.

As farmers of any size, we should realize that our actions address what Pope Frances refers to as "one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.” For every raised bed, urban farm or community green space, we find ourselves committed to a significant act of repair. Collectively we seek to bring ourselves back into alignment with all creation. If we seek to understand more deeply, we see how our collective actions create the spontaneity for healing our environment and establishing a path for healing communities, families, and ourselves. In fact, environmental healing is social healing and vice versa. Every act of planting a seed brings a new possibility of germinating a revitalized social ecosystem.


  • Stephen Yorba

    Bringing more than three decades of experience in community wellness and education, Reverend Stephen Yorba oversees the development and implementation of UrbanMission Community Partners' Urban Agriculture program.

    Since launching the program in 2014, Yorba and his team of volunteer farmers have distributed more than 40,000 pounds of fresh, organic produce to the most underserved in our community. Working side-by-side with city leaders, nonprofits and neighbors, Yorba leads the Clean Food Movement in Pomona through a unique mix of advocacy, education and hands-on agriculture leadership.