Hope Church of the Brethren

Continuing the Work of Jesus Peacefully, Simply, Together

History of Hope Church of the Brethren Farm

The Farm is one of the things about Hope that is unique. A small portion of the income from the farm is set aside each year to be used for scholarships to camp, disaster relief, seminars, etc. But most of the income earned from the farm goes to food related charities. How to be good stewards of the land is important to almost everyone you talk to at Hope. Just how to DO this does not have as much consensus, though keeping it as a farm seems to have almost universal support. Lately there has been an emphasis on letting us know the history of the farm: how we got it, who has worked the land, what it has meant to the church, etc. Especially for us non-farm raised folk, knowing as much about the farm as possible can only be a good thing. Case in point: when I went to take the picture of the farm, the greeters at church asked why I was taking photos. I said I wanted to have a photo of the farm on our blog. They noted I hadn’t taken a picture of OUR farm: our land was the other direction. I responded, “it’s a farm” (which had Jigg chuckling). “I mean corn in corn” (at which Jiggs was almost rolling on the ground laughing since the farm was planted with soy beans). While we want to be good stewards of the farm and the dream is to keep it for its purpose, it is evident that for some of us (namely, me), we need to be educated in the basics so we can make good decisions in the future.

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A HISTORY:

The farm was purchased from Orville Deardorff in 1954 for $8,500.00.  It was to be used as a Men’s Work Project. At that time, many of the men of the church were farming and they cooperated in the operation of the farm. Doing this work were Floyd Thompson, Ken Thompson, Orville Deardorff, Ammon Miller, Ammon Miller Jr. (Jiggs), Clare Eash, Dan Kauffman, George Overholt, Ervin Stahl, Glen Stahl, Harold Rairigh and Fred Holsworth. Crops that were raised were wheat, corn and soy beans. Profits were used to pay for the farm, make any necessary improvements and give to outreach.

Over the years, fewer of these men were farming, so it was no longer a Men’s Work Project. It was decided to rent the farm. It was rented to Ken Thompson sometime in the early to mid-1070s. For a period of time it was rented to Ken and Brian Thompson – then later Brian, who is still renting it in 2013.

Some time after the farm was paid for, guidelines were established as to how the profits would be used. Designated amounts of not more than $1,000.00 could be used locally for camperships, seminars, retreats, etc. The balance would be given to outreach agencies meeting human needs.

In 1974-75 a portion of the church farm was set over from Kent County (Lowell School District) in to the adjourning Campbell township (Ionia County) which was in Lakewood School District.

In the early 1980s the township insisted on charging property taxes for land not directly used for church purposes. This resulted in a smaller net income from the farm.

Late in 1989 the farm committee discussed the possibility of selling the farm and using the interest on the capital for the same purposes as the net income money had been used since the purchase of the farm. With proper investment this could result in an income of approximately $4,000.00-$6,000.00 per year. This would have been an increase in funds to help others. The farm committee recommended to sell the farm and use only the interest on capital in accordance with the previous policy. The sale of the farm would exclude the property the church and parsonage sit on and the woods and the ball field. The exact acreage and description was to be determined by the Stewards commission. The farm committee felt that the approval of this recommendation would be a better stewardship of the resources God has put in our care. When this recommendation was taken to the Church Counsel, it was denied.

In late 1989 Amoco Oil Company leased the mineral rights for the church property for $1,200.00. This was calculated at $15.00 per acre for 80 acres for five (5) years.

In 2012 The Bishop Land Services Inc. wanted to lease the farm for exploration of gas and oil. When the committee discussed this, there was some difference of opinion as to whether it should be leased because drilling might be done by means of fracking. The committee decided to take a recommendation to Church Council instead of making the decision. The recommendation was “the Farm Fund Committee recommends to Church Council that the farm be lease to Bishop Land Services Inc. for the purpose of exploring for gas and oil.” At the April Council meeting of 2012 the recommendation was denied.

Ini 2012 The Bishop Land Services Inc. wanted to lease the farm for exploration of gas and oil. When the committee discussed this, there was some difference of opinion as to whether it should be leased because drilling might be done by means of fracking. The committee decided to take a recommendation to Church Council instead of making the decision. The recommendation was “the Farm Fund Committee recommends to Church Council that the farm be lease to Bishop Land Services Inc. for the purpose of exploring for gas and oil.” At the April Council meeting of 2012 the recommendation was denied.

From 1995-2012 $47,836.64 was given to charities in the local communities and beyond, such as Church World Services, God’s Kitchen and Habitat for Humanity. This dollar amount doesn’t include what was given for disaster travel expenses, camperships, seminars and workshops.

Compiled by Ken & Charlene Thompson, Duane Deardorff, and Keith & Jean Bergy

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