Farm and food manager enjoys
cultivating ‘a sense of hope’
You wouldn’t guess it glancing across this season’s Ohio tundra, but the first signs of spring are already emerging inside a barn on the edge of the MTSO campus. Several flats, sheltered from the cold, contain the first seedlings of what will soon be a 4-acre farm in the field south of the Kleist Manor Apartments.
The man charged with making this agricultural and educational endeavor a reality is Tadd Petersen, who began his duties as MTSO’s manager of farm and food in December. He and Christopher Holt, the assistant manager of farm and food, will oversee both the organic farm and the food service in Dunn Dining Hall.
Through the efforts of Petersen, Holt and others in the MTSO community who will work the farm, the school will come into closer alignment with core values, including its commitment to a just and sustainable world.
Before coming to MTSO, Holt and Petersen worked together at a nonprofit that assists low-income families and individuals returning from incarceration with services including job training. Though Petersen was raised on a family farm, he’s nonetheless a little surprised to find himself in this line of work. “When I was a teenager,” he said, “I thought my parents were crazy. ‘Why do they make me work so hard out here to get this little bit of food?’”
After high school, he spent five years at a factory, working his way up to plant supervisor: “It was good money but I was miserable, so I quit and went to school. I’ve basically been in school ever since.”
At one point Petersen considered missionary work, but eventually he was drawn back to his roots: “Once I started thinking about food, it all led back to what it means to feed people. What does it mean to think of spirituality in a different way than most of the institutionalized church thinks of it?”
“How many churches own land?” he asked. “How many churches could have a farmer and could support their own communities with good food, not just canned food, for the food bank?”
Petersen spent time at Michigan State University’s Student Organic Farm, where his calling came into clear focus. “It’s amazing the conversations you can have with your peers when you’re down in the dirt,” he said. “I’ve had countless conversations about what it means to be a Christian when I was out in the field working with somebody.”
The farm at MTSO gives Petersen and Holt the opportunity for plenty of conversations and cultivation. This winter, they’re dividing their time between beginning the farm and shopping for the fresh foods they’re serving in Dunn Dining Hall. Soon, though, Petersen expects MTSO to be a net exporter, with every fruit and vegetable served in the dining hall harvested just steps away.
In addition to operating a full-scale, diversified vegetable farm, Petersen said MTSO will grow blueberries, blackberries and strawberries, “and we also have wild raspberries in the woods that we’ll harvest.”
He said two heated, 96-foot-long hoop houses (which are similar to greenhouses) will dramatically enhance the diversity the farm can offer: “We’ll have twice as many varieties as we could without them. And the real bonus is having extra-early things that nobody else will have that early.” For instance, MTSO’s tomatoes will be ripe in May instead of June or July.
Petersen and Holt will need help harvesting all of these crops. While they expect that students and other members of the MTSO community will pitch in, they’re also offering four full-time apprenticeships beginning in March. Information is available here.
While Petersen expects to sell some of the farm’s yield to restaurants and farmers’ market customers, he said the majority of what is grown will be consumed on campus. “Our intention isn’t to compete with local farmers,” he said. “Our intention is to create a sustainable campus.”
Petersen also wants to see fresh produce become more available to those who often can’t afford it, though he knows that’s not just a matter of sharing the bounty: “The big challenge – and one that I struggle with personally – is that there’s this huge barrier for low-income individuals, not only in access but in knowing what to do with their food. That comes down to education.”
During his time at the Ridge, he said, it took a while for those unaccustomed to fresh food to learn how tasty it could be, “but after a few weeks, people got comfortable with the idea that, ‘Wow, this is really good.’”
For instance, he said, “When most people think of beets, they think of pickled beets that their grandpa ate. But there are so many ways to prepare a beet that are amazing.”
Beets will be among the 80 varieties of fruits and vegetables grown, along with such crops as carrots and turnips. What won’t be planted at MTSO? Surprisingly, it’s the crops you see throughout most of the rest of Ohio, such as corn and soybeans.
“Much of the production for those kinds of things is best for mechanical farming,” Petersen said. “I don’t know if you’ve ever threshed wheat by hand before. I’ve done it once, and I never want to do it again.”
Instead, the MTSO farm will focus on crops that can be tended with a more personal touch, an approach Petersen believes aids the educational component of the project.
“It can create this new sense of hope,” he said. “When you’re able to grow something with your own hands, watch it grow from the seed, I think it changes your perspective. It opens your eyes to what creation means.”
“It can help our students think about new ways of doing things within an institution. Hopefully this will affect them in a way that they might want to reproduce somewhere else.”
SCHOOLER INSTITUTE ON PREACHING
Prophetic Preaching in the Age
of Reality TV Preachers
There is still time to register for the Schooler Institute on Preaching Feb. 10 and 11. MTSO homiletician Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler will give two lectures on the theme “To Serve the Present Age? The State of Prophetic Preaching in the Age of Reality TV Preachers.”
Also speaking is Dr. Timothy Eberhart, recently appointed assistant professor of theology and ecology at MTSO. He’ll lecture on the topic “Holy Communion for the Whole Creation.”
We hope you’re planning to be a part of it. If you haven’t registered yet, we ask that you do so by this Thursday, Feb. 6.
Be a mentor to MTSO students
and recent graduates
The Alumni Mentoring Network is now up and running at MTSO through the Office of Vocational Discernment. This network gives students and alumni the opportunity to connect directly through the online site.
Serving as a mentor can be a deeply fulfilling part of ministry, counseling or scholarship. Mentors inspire others to reach their potential. MTSO’s students and graduates may have a variety of mentors in their lives, both formal and informal. This network is designed to help support students at this stage of their vocational journey.
As a mentor, you’re expected to listen, ask questions and guide; mentors should not impose, provide easy answers or feel responsible for the outcomes in their mentees’ lives. Expectations and boundaries can be clearly set both in the information you provide and through conversations with a mentee.
Positive mentoring through this network will most likely involve sharing resources, presenting possibilities, and challenging new thought through constructive criticism, networking, and sharing experiences of both successes and failures.
Visit www.collegecentral.com/mtso to sign up as an alum. Once your account is created and approved, sign into the mentoring network with the password “centrum.” Once there, you will be asked to answer a few questions about your own vocational journey and discernment. You will also be able to choose the topics you are willing to be contacted about, such as general conversation, practicing interviews and shadowing (if you are in a career field conducive to that).
Note: Mentees will be able to contact you only through the website. If you would like to provide personal contact information to them, you may do so after being contacted.
Thank you for considering becoming a mentor at MTSO. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
MARCH 14 DAY-LONG WORKSHOP
Developing Community: A Toolkit
for Doing Nonprofit Work
You want to change the world, and you think nonprofit work is a means for achieving your vision. But where do you start? What and who do you need to know? Does a faith-based structure make sense for the work you want to do? What are the pitfalls you should avoid?
On March 14, the Theological Commons at MTSO will present “Developing Community: A Toolkit for Doing Nonprofit Work” to help you replace your uncertainty with a real sense of how you can embark on the rewarding work you envision. This workshop will focus on the basics of community development, with sessions on grants, networking and relationships. You’ll hear enlightening anecdotes and glean valuable nuts-and-bolts advice from successful leaders of both faith-based and non-faith-based nonprofits.
Keynote speakers are Rev. John Edgar, executive director of Community Development for All People, and Stephanie Frank Scribner, council coordinator for the Delaware County Family and Children First Council. Both speakers will also be among the leaders for breakout sessions.
Tuition is $40. MTSO students may attend free, and all other students may attend at a discounted cost of $30. One CEU credit is available for an additional $35.
WILLIAMS INSTITUTE LECTURES
Boyarin addresses ‘Jewishness’
of the New Testament
Author and talmudic culture scholar Daniel Boyarin will present a Jewish perspective of the New Testament in two Williams Institute lectures March 12 at MTSO. He will present “Two Notes on the ‘Jewishness’ of the New Testament: Hebrews and Revelation” at 11:30 a.m. and “Mark, Matthew and Keeping Kosher” at 7 p.m.
Both lectures will be in the Alford Centrum. They are free and open to the public. A campus lunch conversation with Boyarin following the 11:30 lecture also is open to the public. No registration is necessary for these events.
Boyarin is the Hermann P. and Sophia Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture at the University of California at Berkeley. He earned his doctorate and Masters of Hebrew Literature from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, a Masters of Semitic Languages at Columbia University, and a bachelor’s degree from Goddard College.
Boyarin’s books include A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity, Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity, and his most recent, The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ.
MTSO’s Williams Institute was begun in 1981 to honor the late Dr. Ronald L. Williams, professor of theology from 1971 until his death in 1981. The institute has featured speakers from many backgrounds, including theologians, ethicists, poets, biblical scholars, historians, pastoral psychologists and Christian educators.
MARCH 2 EVENT
Alford Centrum concert features
MTSO organist Joshua Brodbeck
MTSO Organist in Residence Joshua Brodbeck will present an organ concert at 7 p.m. March 2 in the Alford Centrum. The concert is open to the public. A freewill offering will benefit music education at MTSO.
A concert organist since the age of 12, Brodbeck has performed live throughout the United States and for television and public radio. He won the Indianapolis American Guild of Organists’ Young Artists competition in 2007 and has received numerous other awards.
Brodbeck holds certificates from the American Guild of Organists and is a member of the Royal College of Organists. He has studied at the Capital University Conservatory of Music and Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. In addition to his position at MTSO, he is minister of music and artist in residence at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Upper Arlington.
Brodbeck’s March 2 concert will feature works by J.S. Bach, Craig Phillips and William Albright, among others.
FACULTY AUTHOR LECTURE
Mercadante delves into the
‘spiritual but not religious’
Professor Linda Mercadante will present a faculty lecture, “The Fleeing Nones: Food for Thought from the Spiritual but not Religious,” at 7 p.m. March 27 in the Alford Centrum on the MTSO campus.
Mercadante, who holds the Straker Chair of Historical Theology at MTSO, has spent five years researching her new book, Belief Without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious, which is being published in early March by Oxford University Press. Publishers Weekly says the book “paints a group that applies typically American values of personal responsibility, freedom, and self-determination to the realm of belief.”
Mercadante was named a 2010-11 Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology for her work on the topic. Among her other books is Bloomfield Avenue: A Jewish-Catholic Jersey Girl’s Spiritual Journey.
In her faculty lecture, sponsored by the Theological Commons at MTSO, Mercadante will share insights gleaned from her academic work as well as interviews with hundreds of so-called “nones” or “SBNRs.” Among the questions she will address are these:
• Why do some SBNRs exempt themselves from organized religion – and why do some within the church see themselves as SBNR?
• What do SBNRs believe? Are they “salad bar spiritualists” or is there a coherent narrative that cuts across class, race, geography and economics?
• What will their effect on society be?
• What can organized religion learn from SBNRs, and what might it offer them?
Mercadante discussed her book and research in a Jan. 10 interview with the Columbus Dispatch.
EAST AND WEST OHIO CONFERENCES
The MTSO Lakeside House
returns this June
Last year, our friends from East and West Ohio stopped in for everything from barbecue to coffee to phone charging and WiFi, not to mention great fellowship. This year promises more of the same – maybe even with better weather.
Plan to join us at 324 Sycamore Ave. (just a couple of blocks from Hoover Auditorium) again this June. We’re planning an Open House with President Rundell; a luncheon for students, alumni and friends; and free coffee and charging stations in the mornings. Dates and times will be posted on our website later this spring.