Living, learning, and working in harmony with creation and with one another.
What is 'Sophia'?
Sophia, in Greek, means “wisdom,” and the seed of Sophia Farms and Sophia Theological Seminary has grown from a recognition that theological education requires a wise and creative re-imagining. How to meet today’s challenges of financial, structural, and environmental sustainability are key components of this wise re-imagining.
Sophia’s re-imagining of sustainability is a present-day renewal of a centuries-old practice: religious communities self-supported through small-scale industry. For Sophia Seminary that supporting industry is Sophia Farms, a small-scale, intensive agricultural community in which students and faculty co-labor in the field and in the classroom.
Why a Farm?
God commands humanity to be stewards of God’s good creation (Gen 1:28-30) and to work the earth and be its keeper, its protector (Gen 2:15). The produce of this earth sustains us, and fulfilling our call to care for it nourishes our deepest connections to the Creator. The earth gives of itself to humanity as humanity nurtures the earth, a reciprocating relationship that grows with the rhythm of each season. Sophia’s focus on sustainability is holistic in view:
- health of the land,
- health of the those who labor on the land,
- health of those who consume the fruit of the land.
The seasonal harvest of Sophia Farms will first be tithed in the community and then sold locally through our CSA, Sophia’s Pantry.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a model based fundamentally in a relationship between local farmers and members of the local community. Each growing season, CSA members pre-purchase “shares” in the farm’s crop yield. Farms use these funds to finance the season’s growing costs, and, as crops are harvested, farms return these shares to CSA members in the form of locally-grown, fresh, seasonal produce.
CSAs are a community partnership, and selling produce through Sophia’s Pantry CSA is one way Sophia is able to embody our commitment to collaboration. Proceeds from Sophia’s Pantry then go on to fund the partnership at the very heart of Sophia: that of farm and seminary.
Sophia Theological Seminary
The proceeds from Sophia Farms sustain the operating expenses of Sophia Seminary. Just as the relationship between humanity and the land, the relationship between study and work is reciprocal. Both the field and the classroom are centers of learning, the work of the mind and the work of the hands two vines intertwining as they grow.
In the biblical witness, the pursuit of wisdom is two-fold: (1) experience and observation of the everyday world around us (2) understood and interpreted as divine creation. This sophia answers any challenge to the harmonious relationship between religion and science, and Sophia is committed to wisdom gained from the dual pursuits of theological enquiry and agricultural science.
Sophia Farms is Committed to...
In beginning, God created. And God called humans to be co-creators: to serve and to keep the earth. We are to tend to the needs of the land, to engage ourselves in the work of its well-being. Human care of the earth is critical to the well-being of creation. The land is dependent upon us; we are dependent upon the land. To accomplish this work well, ministers of the Gospel require knowledge, information, data from both rigorous inquiry into theological disciplines and commitment to principles of agricultural science. Creation care is both a theological and a scientific endeavor.
Food supply, food production, food availability, food distribution, food consumption, food waste, food (in)security, food policy. The chain connecting seeds in the ground to meals on the table has many links, and each of these links can be a point of connection or disruption. “Food justice” is a concept and a movement based in a recognition of structural inequities in our food systems. Food justice is interconnected with racial and economic justice as well. Sophia commits itself and its resources to help create systems and build communities that attest to God’s justice, God’s just-ness.
Environmental sustainability is one aspect of Sophia’s community-wide commitment to sustainability, a commitment intertwined with our call to stewardship of the earth. The Farms’ operations are informed by tenets of creation care and food justice and are built upon methods that are socially responsible to and nonexploitative of land and labor. Practices, such as ones that pay careful attention to soil health, help create a self-sustaining biological system, thus ensuring the earth’s and Sophia’s sustainability for generations yet to be.
To collaborate is to “co-labor,” to “labor together.” Through co-laboring with others, the work of Sophia can flourish. Our partners include churches and other ministry or food-based organizations, students who have an enduring passion for God’s creation, academic partners in Virginia’s land grant universities (particularly through Virginia Cooperative Extension), and hosts of groups and individuals longing for the re-imagined community Sophia fosters.
Sophia Theological Seminary and Sophia Farms are two facets of an integrated community where both seminary and farm are centers of learning, where education on the land joins hand-in-hand with education in the classroom. As one of the Farm’s core values states, farming offers a “laboratory” of learning fidelity to God’s creation and to one another in community; it is both a practical and a theological endeavor. Sophia’s ministers are being formed on a patch of God’s good earth, in a space without partitions, learning with the rhythms of the seasons to integrate deep theological study, deep relationship, and deep callouses.
Our Core Values
As an embodied community of learners committed to God as revealed in Jesus Christ, Sophia Farms assents to a set of core values, including:
- Individuals and communities need to live in increased connection to and harmony with God’s creation, and work together on the Farms will be marked by the rhythms of nature, the land, and creation.
- Farming offers a “laboratory” of learning fidelity to God’s creation and to one another in community; it is both a practical and a theological endeavor.
- Ongoing engagement with questions of sustainability, food justice, ecology, and stewardship of God’s good creation are critical to the development of farming practices.
- The Farms will tithe of its produce.
- Being a community of inclusive welcome is foundational to the life, work, and self-understanding of the Farms.
- Relationships forged between Sophia Farms and Sophia Seminary, the church, and the community will undergird and strengthen the life and work of all, as the Farms is both witness to and resource for the church and the community.
- The community will exercise wise stewardship of capital resources, natural resources, and people.
- The community claims its heritage as little “b” baptist, understanding this heritage as historical, transcending specific denominational confines, and equally commits itself to ecumenical and interfaith work, locally and globally.