News & Events
"Day of Service with Fields of Hope" Honors Historic Lord’s Acre Initiative
MHC students Aki Masunaga (left) and Yi Lu plant potatoes on a converted tobacco setter.
Day of Service (top) was designed to honor the Lord’s Acre initiative of the Farmer’s Federation. In this photo (bottom), members of Long Chapel United Methodist Church pick up potatoes in 1939, Lake Junaluska Lord’s Acre Project. [James G.K. McClure Collection, Southern Appalachian Archives]
Growing up in Japan, Aki Masunaga had done very little farming outside of her father’s small suburban garden. But that all changed on April 17, when she found herself sitting on a converted tobacco setter and planting potatoes for Fields of Hope, a faith-based ministry in Mars Hill which raises food for distribution by local ministries.
Aki was one of approximately 20 students and staff of Mars Hill College who participated in “Day of Service with Fields of Hope.” For Aki, the Day of Service was a way to be more aware of ways to help the hungry in western North Carolina.
“Working at Fields of Hope definitely made me aware of the hunger issue in North Carolina, which I had never considered before,” she said. “I truly think what they are doing is great, so I can’t wait till I get to go there again to serve people in need.”
Some of the students had not planted potatoes before. But they were unafraid of the dirty work of spring planting: cutting and removing branches, clearing rocks from the field, cutting up potatoes and then planting them.
“It was nice to take a break from myself and do some grunt work for others. My legs and back may have been sore the next day but it was worth it,” said student Britney Acosta.
According to Amy Carraux, program coordinator for the Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies at MHC, Day of Service with Fields of Hope was about service to others, but it was also about teaching history. The event was part of a series of programs focusing on the James G.K. McClure Collection, currently housed in the Southern Appalachian Archives. The collection documented the work of the Farmers Federation in western North Carolina from the early days of the Federation in the 20s through its decline in the late 50s. It consists of over 3,000 photographs, manuscripts, scrapbooks, publications, and recordings collected by James G. K. McClure.
Specifically, the Day of Service paid tribute to the Lord’s Acre program, an initiative of the Farmers Federation. Through the Lord’s Acre program, Appalachian farmers could raise food or animals for distribution or sale, as a way of supporting their churches.
“Day of Service with Fields of Hope shared the good work and the collective power of rural churches in western North Carolina – both today and in the past. By serving at Fields of Hope, faculty, staff and students were able to take part in alleviating food insecurity for our brothers and sisters, and at the same time, they were able to honor the Lord’s Acre initiative of the Farmers Federation,” Carraux said.
Fields of Hope is a community garden ministry owned and operated by A.C. and Susie Honeycutt of Mars Hill. Last year, over 300 local volunteers helped the organization raise and distribute over 91,000 pounds of fresh vegetables to local ministries like Neighbors in Need and Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministries.
“While the two programs are not identical in mission, their commitment of aligning our agricultural assets to better our communities is evident,” Carraux said. “Connections between the two truly came alive when students took turn setting potatoes at Fields of Hope, and then examined a Lord’s Acre photograph where the Long Chapel United Methodist Church at Lake Junaluska posed with their Lord’s Acre potatoes.”
Student Sarah Paquette said: “It was touching to see us all come together—people who perhaps would not spend time with each other on a regular basis—to help our hungry neighbors. We were all working towards the same goal. This resonated with me during the reflection when I grasped the vastness of the Fields of Hope efforts and the realization that when people join together, their small efforts manifest into something great.”
Day of Service with Fields of Hope was a collaborative effort between the Mars Hill College Ramsey Center for Regional Studies, LifeWorks Learning Partnership at MHC, and Fields of Hope.