In seeking to foster a culture of life and practice Catholic social teaching, Chesterton Academy of the Willamette Valley has a unique aspect to our mission. We call it the “Agrarian Vision.” To understand what we mean when we say we are “agrarian,” we must start with the culture that comes from an agrarian way of life. What are the virtues of the yeoman, the small farmer, the kind of person America was built on?
To begin with farming is to begin with the soil. We start with ours—the Willamette Valley—a place renowned for agriculture and beauty. This connection to the land and appreciation for working with nature is a core value of our school. Not only working the land, but appreciating and loving it for what it is. We want all young men and women to cultivate curiosity and childlike wonder for God’s created order.
To be agrarian is to love living things and their cultivation. This value means loving life: plants, animals, and of course the pinnacle of God’s creation, the
human person. Agrarian people understand living and growing things leading to an enriched human society and persons. When things stop growing, there is a problem, and intervention is required. We want all young men and women to love living and growing things. The result of this love will lead to personal development, strong families and a renewed culture of life.
Farmers work hard. Since a farmer is in a relationship with his crop, for example, a kind of continual knowledge and learning is required for success. In other words, he must always be vigilant in protecting and preserving growing things, thus the need for knowledge. We want all young men and women to be disciplined life-long learners and problem-solvers. We do this by providing a rigorous classical education, but also by teaching work ethic through hands-on activities centered on agriculture.
Lastly, to live off the land and on the land is to celebrate seasons and understand change. For the farmer, the days of sunshine mean days of toil. As the season turns to autumn the harvest comes, and with that, celebration and gratitude to God. The idea of work, celebration, and rest is built into creation, which the agrarian person learns to lives in harmony with. The Book of Ecclesiastes says there’s a time for everything, and in a work-obsessed culture we leave out true leisure. We want all young men and women to to align their lives to the rhythm of the natural year and of the liturgical year. We do this by observing the rhythm of the liturgical calendar, with its feasts, fasts, and memorials, and of life itself— from each new season, to each new child, to every new tree and honey-bee.