A Christian-Agrarian Creed


Almost exactly three years ago, when I first discovered blogs on the internet, I posted a comment over on Scott Terry’s Homesteader Life blog. I don’t recall the context. But I do recall the story....

In my younger days, I started a chimney cleaning business. A Mr. Letchworth called me and wanted the fireplace in his camp cleaned. The camp was on Owasco Lake, which is one of Central New York’s beautiful Finger Lakes.

I turned off the main road where Mr. Letchworth had told me to, and I drove down a long, winding, private road, through hardwood forest land, towards the lake. At the bottom of the road I came to a large, level expanse of lakeside lawn and buildings. The largest of the buildings was, evidently, the camp. It was old and grand. The morning was foggy and damp. No people were in sight. The only evidence that anyone was around was a single, ordinary station wagon parked on the lawn.

I got out of my truck and walked around to the front of the camp. There I found the front stairs, which matched the grandeur of the structure. Two exceptionally large statues of winged lions stood guard on either side of the staircase. They were impressive creatures.

The combination of quiet, foggy morning, the old and large building, and the winged lions left me feeling like I was in the opening scene of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Standing on the broad porch, I knocked on the front door, and waited. A short while later I could hear footsteps coming and the door opened. A slight, grey-haired older gentleman greeted me. It was Mr. Letchworth.

He invited me in and introduced me to his wife, then showed me to a fireplace in one room. I commented about the size of the camp and Mrs. Letchworth related to me that their visiting grandchildren would sometimes get lost in the place.

If you are familiar with New York State, you may have heard of Letchworth State Park. The land for the park was given to the State by William Pryor Letchworth, a wealthy industrialist who died in 1910. W.P started his career as a clerk in a saddalry and hardware business in Auburn, N.Y., which is at one end of Owasco Lake. I suspect the lakeside compound was a remnant of that family’s former greatness, and the Mr. Letchworth I met was, no doubt, a descendent, and heir.

The fireplace chimney wasn’t dirty enough to warrant cleaning. Before leaving, Mr. Letchworth wanted to show me a stove chimney in the kitchen. The room was in the back of the house. Like everything else, the kitchen was big with lots of windows and counter space. I imagined that it was once the center of activity for a bustling crew of domestic servants.

The kitchen was far from modern. Its walls, woodwork and built in cabinets were all painted a monochrome buttermilk color. Though clean and neat and bright, the kitchen was cold and sparse. There was no decoration or ornamentation except a single, plain black picture frame. But it had no picture in it. There was, instead, some printed words. I read the words and remembered them.

Use it up.
Wear it out.
Make it do.
Or do without.

Were those words an admonition to the domestic help? I suspect so. Were they the Letchworth family motto? Probably not—at least not in their heyday of wealth and fame. Would someone with such a motto live so grandly? It would certainly be a paradox.

But it appeared that the Mr. Letchworth I had just met was a conservative man—careful with his money. The small station wagon on the lawn was one indication of this.

Whatever the case, I like that little creed. I have always wanted to put it in writing and frame it in my home. Last weekend I finally did just that.


The framed phrase is in my kitchen. My whole family can now see the words, and learn them, and remember them, and, hopefully, take them to heart.

Inherent within the creed are some very notable virtues for living one’s life. In fact, as a Christian I see the creed as a deep theological statement. The Bible tells us that Christians are supposed to be a type of “domestic servant” to the The Most High God. We are to be caretakers of creation and stewards of the many material blessings our King has entrusted to us.

The whole idea of thrift—of not wasting the blessings—is found in the creed. Conservation of natural resources and using the earth’s bounty responsibly is there. Personal resourcefulness, as well as creativity can be read into the words. Contentment is certainly found within the creed. Simplicity, and doing without ostentation are also in the creed. In fact, the creed is a clear rejection of prideful materialism.

These concepts are inherent in the agrarian way of life, and they mesh perfectly with my Christian-agrarian worldview. That is because the Bible and agrarianism mesh perfectly with each other.

Of course, if everyone in America adopted this creed tomorrow, and actually acted upon it, our economy would collapse in no time flat. So what does that say about our economic system?

The industrial way of life, and the economic system it has spawned, is built upon discontentment, materialism, destruction of the earth’s natural resources, and waste. It is not a system that honor’s the King. It rejects Him and His wisdom.

All of which explains why the world finds itself in such troubles these days. Economic troubles. Environmental troubles. All kinds of troubles. We have departed from the simplicity and wisdom of God’s admonitions for living a responsible life.

So I present this Christian-agrarian creed for your consideration. It is something to think about. Perhaps you would want to frame it and put it on the wall of your home as a reminder to you and your family.


TNfarmgirl said...

Hi Herrick,
I'm thinking I'd like to cross stitch that :)

Chef JoAnna said...

Thanks for this! My husband told me to check this post out, as the saying in that frame is something we've believed in for a long time.

He really enjoys your blog, and he often tells me about your stories, and how well you're raising your sons. You've got much to be proud of!

You've inspired him to leave his lucrative stare-at-a-computer-all-day career and establish his own farm. I've been trying to encourage him to start a blog NOW, while we're still in the planning stages of moving from Los Angeles to (probably) Tennessee, but he's not into it.

Anyway, maybe as things move along, we'd be grateful if we could contact you for advice, and perhaps even invite you & your family to visit what we're currently calling the Nerd Ranch.


P. S. "Whiz bang chicken plucker" is in our day-to-day vocabulary!

jayedee said...

a timely reminder....
thank you!

Anonymous said...

These are words to live by. Thank You for sharing!

The Midland Agrarian said...

amen Brother Herrick

Andi said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing. I believe I'll have to be makin' one of those to hang on my wall. I already have 1 Timothy 6:6-8 hanging on my computer monitor, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brougth nothing into the world and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content."

Anonymous said...

Word to live by.... first by me and then by my children. My favoraite saying for parents is:
"More is caught than taught".

Mia said...

So true!