Let there be... organic food

The Hale family has embraced organic farming because it is healthy, good for the environment and less cruel to animals. But do not mistake them for nature-worshiping New Agers or back-to-basics hippies.

by: Ed Stoddard and Jessica Rinaldi | 18 Sep 2007

They are part of a small movement of conservative Christians who believe the Bible demands an organic or natural approach to agriculture.

The Hales support the Republican Party, have eight children and take their faith very seriously.

And yet, like the Amish and Mennonites before them, they have chosen a lifestyle that other conservative Christians in the United States might dismiss as counter-culture.

"Because we're organic we can't poison bugs and we're dependent on the Lord," said patriarch Mike Hale. "There's an aspect that we trust the Lord to take care of things."

Organic agriculture emphasises crop rotation, composting and the use of animal manures, avoiding chemical fertilisers and pesticides that organic farmers say contaminate food, wildlife and the environment.

The Hales emphasis are on environmental stewardship, kindness to livestock raised for market, and their suspicion of big agriculture and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not positions usually associated with conservative Republicans.

Faith and farming
"God specifically says 'do not mix' and he gives examples of not mixing a certain cloth or not mixing or planting different seeds in a field," said Connie as she explained why the family avoided GMO foods.

The family raise beef and lamb but poultry is their mainstay, with close to 400 chickens slaughtered and prepared each week.

The chickens are "pastured," which means their diet is a natural one of insects and grass out in the field.

High-end restaurants are among their clients as organic or natural products are coveted and come with a premium.

For Mike it is all part of God's design, which also explains why he feels that even animals raised for food should not be treated cruelly or cooped up in tiny pens like factory farmed animals.

This puts him among a growing number of faith-based groups, both conservative and liberal, who are promoting organic foods and good nutrition as part of a Christian lifestyle.

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