My early years were spent in the country – I was born at Upper Dicker – so I can easily identify with farms and farmers.
The pleasure of being with animals, both pet and domestic, has never really left me. In fact, I would love to have a dog in my retirement, but cannot decide between a Chihuahua and a Saint Bernard.
Since many churches, particularly those in rural areas, will be arranging harvest thanksgiving services throughout September, it is appropriate that I should speak with another country lad about his life away from the hustle and bustle of the town, and get an opinion from him about such traditions.
Matt Ford describes his background, which although he is of course considerably younger than me, is, I discover, so similar to my own.
“I chose farming as a career because of the great opportunity I had to come into the family business. I enjoy working with livestock, being outdoors and managing my own time. It is a family-run dairy farm near Herstmonceux, bought by my father back in 1958. I am now in partnership with my parents who previously farmed in partnership with my grandparents.”
It can be an all-consuming job on occasions, admits Matt, and is very different from ‘normal’ 9–5 employment. He hopes there would be an opening for any future children of his to take up this work if they had a mind to do so.
Inevitably, there are negatives on the farm as well as positives. “One of the things I enjoy is seeing my animals looking healthy, happy and productive. When one is sick, dies or has to be put down, that is definitely a low point. Paperwork is also a low, though an essential part of any modern business!”
I wanted to know from Matt whether he feels that harvest festivals are out-of-date, especially as we are not an agricultural nation any more.
His response: “I think that precisely for that reason, it is all the more important that harvest is celebrated. We have become so used to having plenty of food, clean and sanitised, at every season of the year, that it is sometimes good to stop and be thankful for the provision that we have. We should also consider others do not have such stable provision of food and what we can
do to help. Our village church does have a harvest festival, so perhaps for us the farming calendar is a little more visible.”
As if his day-to-day responsibilities were not enough, Matt is also involved with Street Pastors in Eastbourne, a project launched some eighteen months ago. “I heard about it and just felt that it was something God was calling me to do. I was extremely nervous about the prospect of going out (on a Friday or Saturday from 10pm to 3.30pm), but I have been hugely encouraged by the
other pastors and the team of pray-ers. I firmly believe that God has used this experience to change me and deepen my relationship with him.”
A great testimony, reinforced by Matt quoting a Bible verse which impressed him so much recently, speaking of God coming to him in blessing. Psalm 139, 5: “You, Lord, hem me in, behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.”
In so many ways, then, we can be thankful for the variety of gifts we find around us.