Jim Bracke, a chaplin at the University of Notre Dame; Jeff Hawkins, executive director of Hope CSA; and Kurt Borgmann, senior pastor at Manchester Church of the Brethren, (from left) feed chickens as part of a program that helps clergymen reconnect with their roots by engaging in agricultural activities.
Jim Bracke, a chaplin at the University of Notre Dame; Jeff Hawkins, executive director of Hope CSA; and Kurt Borgmann, senior pastor at Manchester Church of the Brethren, (from left) feed chickens as part of a program that helps clergymen reconnect with their roots by engaging in agricultural activities.

NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. — To help clergy leaders stay grounded and reconnect with their roots, Jeff Hawkins started Hope CSA on his small family farm in northern Indiana.

Hawkins, an ordained Lutheran pastor, started the not-for-profit 501(c)(3) in 2003, expanding on the original concept of a community-supported agriculture program to assist clergies.

On the third Monday, Thursday and Friday of every month, except December, church leaders come to the farm to participate in the special continuing education course.

They enjoy an authentic opportunity to take a step back from their everyday lives and help feed chickens, plant and weed gardens and, eventually, taste the efforts of their hard work.

Jeffery Dick, a pastor from South Haven, Mich., has been a part of Hope CSA for the last six years. He said that self-care is really important for a pastor because many burn out, which is why he doesn’t mind taking a day off and driving two and a half hours each way to and from the farm.

Dick said the courses have been very beneficial. He has many fruit growers in his congregation, and they appreciate it when he weaves images from the farm into his sermons, he noted.

Hawkins employs chores on the farm — such as feeding the flock of chickens — as lessons that the clergymen can use and take back to their own flocks of people.

For example, he noted that instead of replacing all of the chickens last year, like he’s done in previous years, he incorporated some younger laying hens with the older birds.

It was as if he had two separate flocks living in one area, and although it took several weeks, both groups of chickens now finally share the same hen house, he said.

Hawkins noted that when congregations try to merge, it sometimes may feel like a daunting task, as if they are two completely different flocks that feel the need to rise against the idea of becoming one.

Every year, Hope CSA hosts a farm-to-fork dinner, known as “Between Heaven and Earth,” on the last Saturday in September.

The evening serves as a fundraiser for the organization and takes place in the garden, featuring food from the farm, as well as local vendors.

More information about the on-farm ministry can be found at www.hopecsa.org.