Jason Craig: Farming Feeds Bodies and Souls
The farm experience “lives on” in visitors long after they leave the farm.
For viewers of Marcus Grodi’s Journey Home show on EWTN, the name and face of Jason Craig may be familiar. Interviewed in 2018 about his conversion to Catholicism, Craig talked about his long trek to his faith, a pathway that led from the Methodist church, atheism, non-denominational churches, and finally, by God’s grace, to Catholicism.
“I grew up in a nonpracticing Protestant home,” he said about his childhood in Pittsboro, North Carolina, adding that few people there ever went to church. His family was involved with the Methodists, and he would occasionally join them on Sundays, and he had no real formal introduction to Christianity. In high school, because of the national group, Young Life, he was introduced to and became a practicing Protestant.
Much in his life changed when he met and married his wife. Both part of a Protestant ministry, Craig worried about how diverse their beliefs were. With the Bible, he said, they could not find greater unity, and they were forced to choose between the true church or whatever that congregation believed. After spending some time with the Mormons, a friend had him read a book by Patrick Madrid, Any Friend of Jesus, on apologetics. The couple realized that the Catholic Church was the true Church, and they converted to Catholicism.
But while many others may know all about Craig’s conversion, what else has captured his heart is farming and agriculture. As a youngster, he spent much time outdoors and he said that many men influenced him to believe in God, knowing that God was there in nature. “I always had a sense of God’s love for me in middle school,” he said, realizing that atheism did not work. “I understood God was present, and God speaks to you through nature … What a grace I had being outside as a kid.”
As Craig matured in his faith, he was constantly puzzled, perhaps even alarmed, about the mass exodus of young men from the faith. “I was studying theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver,” he said, “and I was wondering why it was so hard to get men to come to church. I read G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, and my original thoughts then were it would be better for fathers and sons to work as a family in agrarian societies.” At that time, he and his wife were living in an apartment, and they decided to move to a farm.
“We found a place on a farm in North Carolina,” he said, “and the last bit of money we had we put into milk cows. We had never milked cows before, and it was really hard to learn.” From their two Jersey cows from which they got their milk and butter, the couple then acquired turkeys, chickens and pigs.
That was about seven years ago, and two years later, the couple moved to a larger farm and established an onsite creamery and dairy, selling their products at a local farmers’ market. They also decided to form their farming apostolate, for a farming and agricultural outreach to teach young boys and men about finding God in nature. His project is called “Fraternus at St. Joseph’s Farm” (https://www.stjosephsfarm.com).
The project at St. Joseph’s Farm offers regular weekend farm retreats to guide fathers to help their sons mature properly. That means participants really get back to rural living, with farm work and the slaughtering and slow cooking of a hog in a smoker. This exemplifies how an animal must die so that people can live, he said, explaining that the fathers and sons are part of the whole process, then sitting down to a Saturday evening feast.
“The retreat is a very powerful experience for fathers and sons,” he said. “It provides a solid understanding of rural life … and it is transformative because they are using the body God gave them to do physical and intellectual work,” from building fences to working in the fields. He added that he is not proposing that they become farmers but to understand what is lost without a relationship with the earth. The program is obviously successful: Craig said that some participants have returned three or four times.
Note from the website: Programs at St. Joseph’s Farm provide the principles and mentoring needed to live the Catholic faith radically in any setting, not just a farm. The experience “lives on” in those that visit long after they leave the farm.
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Recipe — Vanilla Ice Cream
Jason Craig’s version is ultra-creamy … with only heavy cream. As he noted, “My favorite recipe is simple vanilla ice cream. Most recipes call for milk and cream but we do all cream.”
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 4 egg yolks
Blend all the ingredients and pop them into your ice cream maker of choice.