When we first embarked on a farm ministry in 1998, it was in response to our pastor’s challenge to live out the call to discipleship.
He said if we want to follow Christ and serve the least among us, we must use the gifts that have been promised to us in connection with our faith.
For us, there wasn’t a strong sense of our spiritual gifts, but we had a strong desire to serve others through the land, with the beauty and richness of God’s creation.
So, the farm ministry was born to provide fresh produce for the hungry, and we summoned the assistance and sweat equity of those in our congregation — especially the youth.
Within a few years, we decided to incorporate as a separate nonprofit. In addition to assembling a board of directors, we had to come up with a name for the corporation.
We labored over this task for more than a little while. Ultimately, we chose a name that we felt could point folks to meaningful application.
We chose the name First Fruits Farm, and we looked forward to opportunities to explain its meaning to our volunteer farmhands.
We knew that the concept of “first fruits” was not easily retrievable to most folks, especially those unfamiliar with the Bible, and we believed this would provide a springboard for conversation about why we grow, harvest and donate fresh food for the hungry in our communities.
Little did we realize that our name almost became a stumbling block to understanding. People had trouble with it.
They didn’t say or remember it correctly. We were confused with other food operations. It became an inside joke when article after article in local print media would get our name wrong — calling us Fresh Fruit Farms, for example.
Once, a local TV station came out to do a story on the ministry and the schools that sent hundreds of students to serve at the farm.
We explained to the reporter that although it may seem obvious to please get the name right, and we’re sorry to belabor the point — because, you see, others have goofed it up — but we are called First Fruits Farm, and there is a reason for it.
This reporter recorded the news story literally standing in front of and with the camera trained on our farm sign, and proceeded to report on the work being done for the hungry at “Fresh Food Farms.”
God’s Bountiful Blessings
The Old Testament of the Bible is full of references, festivals and requirements to make offerings to God.
Some offerings are made as a symbol of repentance from sin. Some are made as a sign of praise and worship. Some offerings are made as a ritual celebration of a season or temple calendar event.
The “first fruits” offering was made as part of the harvest festival, and to signify that any bounty came as a result of God’s goodness and provision, so an offering of the first — the top, most select part — of the harvest should first and foremost be given to honor God in thanksgiving for providing the abundance of the harvest and bringing us to this season of celebration.
We named our nonprofit First Fruits Farm to remind people that all of the gifts that we enjoy, indeed every blessing in our lives, come from Almighty God, the source of everything good.
When we offer the first of the harvest of that blessing back to him, we invite his glory to be revealed through it.
We think of the parable Jesus shared in Luke 12: 16-21: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, you have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy. Eat, drink and be merry.’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
We should not try to keep and hold tight God’s blessings for ourselves and for our own pleasure, but instead offer them back to him for his glory to be made manifest as he uses them to bless others.
That is when the harvest is most fruitful for the kingdom and the most meaningful for us.
This article was originally posted on Lancaster Farming.