Courtesy Daily News Record, Feb. 10, 2012
Ohio dairy farmer David Kline’s first trip to the Shenandoah Valley came with a surprise — it’s not flat amid the mountains.
“You have rolling hills,” he said. “I like roll to the land.”
What’s more surprising is how many people heard Kline say that.
A crowd of about 200 packed into Dayton’s Montezuma Hall Wednesday night to listen to the Amish farmer speak of the importance of being respectful stewards of God’s land.
The Virginia Cooperative Extension, Eastern Mennonite University and Valley Conservation Council were among the event’s sponsors.
“I guess Amish speakers are fairly popular,” extension agent Eric Bendfeldt said when introducing Kline.
Attendees, however, did not come out to listen to just any Amish speaker.
Kline is the author of several books, including “Letters from Larksong: An Amish Naturalist Explores His Organic Farm,” and travels often to share the story of his 120-acre family farm in Holmes County, Ohio.
The Amish comprise about half Holmes’ 40,000 people, according to the county’s chamber of commerce.
Amish and Mennonites share many of the same beliefs, born out of a 16th century European movement known as Anabaptism — rejecting infant baptism. The Amish, though, live a much more conservative lifestyle today.
Because of that faith, Kline asks not to be photographed. An EMU professor’s in-laws live near him and brought him to Virginia since he uses a horse and buggy as transportation in Ohio.
Kline is speaking to classes at the university this week. Eastern Mennonite School students have actually visited his farm a number of times as part of science teacher Myron Blosser’s summer program.
“It is a real treat to sit around and chat with David on his farm as the sun goes down, then get up early to ‘help’ milk his cows, eat a farm-grown breakfast, watch him mow hay with horses and discuss issues in agriculture with him,” he said in an email. “It has a way of framing perspectives for us.”
Kline said farmers must embrace technology and science only so much, ensuring that the knowledge gained from manual labor on farms is handed down to succeeding generations.
He uses wind power to pump water on his farm and solar energy to charge batteries. Otherwise, his farm and many others around him are electricity-free.
“If there’s a storm,” Kline said, “we never worry about lines being down.”
That way of life is not for everybody, he admits. What is, though, is respecting the land that grows the world’s food.
Kline advises farmers to “romance” young people to keep them interested in agriculture and to not be overwhelmed by the job.
“This is the best life you can live,” he said.