Fred Bahnson: Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau

Fred Bahnson

Food & Faith Speaker, Author, and Journalist

What does it mean to be truly alive? Over the course of a year, Fred Bahnson sets out to answer that question, and during his visits to four intriguing faith communities engaged in the act of growing food, he shares with audiences what he learns. Part memoir, part narrative journalism, part lyrical hymn to the soil that sustains us, his book Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food & Faith (Simon & Schuster) is the story of a spiritual journey both inward and outward, a quest to meet those modern prophets who might teach all of us better ways to be at home in the world.

Beginning his journey in the dark days of winter, Bahnson spends a week with a group of Trappist monks in the South Carolina low country. As he gets up at 3 a.m. for Vigils and works with the brothers in their mushroom operation, he learns the art of “putting the faith in your hands.” Later that spring, at a model community garden started by several Protestant churches in the mountains of North Carolina, he asks a blessing over a potluck meal and renews his faith in community. During the summer he spends the week of Pentecost with a group of meth-cooks-turned-coffee-roasters who have experienced new life in Washington’s Skagit Valley. And finally, in the completion of a sacred circle, Bahnson travels to a Jewish organic farm in the Berkshires where he learns that, both ecologically and spiritually, “the world needs a sabbath.”

During this journey into food and faith that spans four seasons, Bahnson also travels into memory, coming to terms with his own vocation as a feeder of people. He recounts his time among a group of Mayan coffee farmers in Chiapas in 2001. A young divinity graduate, it was during his time in Mexico that he discerned a calling to grow food. He returned to North Carolina and co-founded Anathoth Community Garden, a church-supported garden in North Carolina. His four years at Anathoth taught him that to live and work in a garden is to relearn the most basic realities of life. Rather than an escape from the world’s problems, a garden—especially a communal food garden—confronts us with those very problems. He learns that to grow and share food with others in a garden is to enter a holy country.

Through engaging stories and powerful images, audiences will meet a fascinating cast of characters who are members of a burgeoning food and faith movement. With visits to places like Tierra Nueva, Mepkin Abbey, and Adamah Farm, audiences will discover a vibrant and hopeful new American spirituality taking root across the land.

Fred Bahnson is the author of Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food & Faith (Simon & Schuster) and co-author of Making Peace With the Land (InterVarsity). He holds a masters in theological studies from Duke Divinity School. His writing has appeared in Oxford American, Christian Science Monitor, The Sun, Orion, and several anthologies including Best American Spiritual Writing 2007. His writing has received a number of awards, including a 2006 Pilgrimage Essay Award, a 2008 William Raney scholarship in nonfiction at Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, a 2009-10 Kellogg Food & Community fellowship, and a 2012 North Carolina Artist fellowship in creative nonfiction from the North Carolina Arts Council.

Bahnson lives with his wife and three sons on a hillside in western North Carolina where they grow many of their own fruits and vegetables. In 2012 he joined Wake Forest University School of Divinity as director of the new Food, Faith, & Religious Leadership Initiative, whose vision is to equip religious leaders with the skills necessary to create “more redemptive food systems, where God’s shalom becomes visible for a hungry world.”


Interested in booking Fred Bahnson to speak at your next event?

Contact Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau.

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  • Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food & Faith
  • Field, Table, Communion: On the Spirituality of Eating
  • A Language that Could Make Us Whole: A Writing Workshop on Literary Nonfiction


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