The Blessings of Benison Farms by Misty Landers
When my husband and I were preparing to baptize our teenage sons, Cole and Owen, we met with Father Ryan who said, in response to our doubts that we had taken a non-traditional route to baptism for our kids, that sometimes the path into the Church just looks different. The man knows what he is talking about. My path into the Church started when I became a farmer. It wasn’t until I started spending time at Benison Farm that I understood what Church is. My husband is a life-long Episcopalian but I grew up popping in and out of Churches of various denominations, most notably Methodist and Lutheran, but as an adult really only attended on the major holiday’s and even then, only when I was with my extended family. As it happened, we attended St. Thomas for the first time at Easter at the invite of our neighbors. After that, we came on Sunday to St. Thomas sporadically when our schedule allowed. However, the pandemic changed everything and the shift to zoom and the sudden shutdown of activities gave my family a chance to attend every Sunday from the comfort of our home and in our pajama’s. There suddenly weren’t any excuses for not going to Church. Once we started attending regularly, I heard more about Benison Farm, a ministry started to promote racial reconciliation and healing. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, this was a ministry I felt compelled to be a part of. And so we showed up for one of the Saturday work days and I just kept showing up, because it felt good to be outside working, digging in the dirt, around people. I joined the weekly harvest team and picked and bagged the produce to deliver to our community partner, Mercy Keepers, who distribute food to people in need. Over time I met people and made connections in a time when I had become isolated from my own family and friends. Those connections shined a light in a darkness and taught me lessons about faith, hope and love. Through my work at Benison Farm, I finally understood what Church was all about. We had our kids baptized because we want them to be a part of a community that promotes values such as Justice, Peace and Love. We want them to be a part of a community that is teaching them to be good stewards of the Earth and to share their harvest with their neighbors. We want them to be a part of a community that is addressing issues of inequality and reconciliation. For me, Benison Farm exemplifies the lessons we learn in the Sunday sermons and is the Church in action. There’s a lot of faith that happens at the farm, beginning with the faith that people will show up to do the hard work that is required and the faith that the seeds we sow will grow. There’s a lot of hope that happens at the farm in our dreams that we can grow fresh produce for those that don’t have access and that through our work at the farm we can heal many wounds. There’s a lot of love that happens at the farm. Love for the land, plants and animals that we tend to and most importantly, love for one another and our common humanity. There’s also a lot of spirituality that happens at the farm, as we often come together in moments of prayer and reflection at the farm. But for me personally, Benison Farm lives into its name as being a Blessing as it’s where I have found my path to God.
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
1200 Snell Isle Blvd NE
St. Petersburg, FL 33704
Sunday Worship Schedule
8:00am - Spoken Holy Eucharist, Rite II
10:00am - Choral Holy Eucharist, Rite II