Students at Alaska Bible College are learning how to grow their faith and their own food.

As part of the horticulture class, students toured Country Garden Farms in Palmer and got a crash course on driving a tractor.

“They are our muscles I guess, really. They do a lot of the heavy lifting,” said farmhand Dennis Martin.

The students admit they’re more accustomed to ministry than heavy machinery.

“I never thought I would drive a tractor going to a Bible College,” said 21-year-old Josiah Richardson from Washington state.

Adjunct horticulture professor Steve Brown saw how valuable agriculture skills can be, especially for people serving missions overseas.

 “I was in Indonesia a few years ago where some insurgents had killed all the farmers, and folks in that part of Indonesia had lost the knowledge of how to grow their own food. So we were over there to teach them how to grow crops again,” Brown said.

He added the class to the curriculum a few years ago and believes Alaska Bible College is one of the only schools that offer that kind of course.

“They learn a lot of soil physics, soil science. They learn a lot of fundamental chemistry, organic chemistry that’s involved with horticulture,” Brown explained.

Students like Delany Rau from Skagway found it easy to steer the Deere once she got the hang of it. Rau said the skills will help them improve the lives of others.

“We all have a need for food, water and shelter. So with missions, we do want to ultimately help their spiritual lives but we need to meet a need first and so we're learning how to meet that need here in Alaska,” Rau said.

As part of the horticulture class, Brown said students also get to tour the secret gardens during the Alaska State Fair. Each year, horticulture staff there work with about 50,000 flowers and plants to create topiaries, centerpieces and gardens.

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