Living Organically

God told Lakisha Witter to buy a farm. So she did, despite having absolutely no farming experience. Today, Witter—an adjunct instructor in Bethel’s graduate program in special education—owns and operates Live Organically in Oak Grove, Minnesota. The farm sells organic produce locally, and gives Bethel interns a chance to grow food—and grow their faith.

By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist

August 26, 2020 | 1:30 p.m.

Lakisha Witter

Lakisha Witter owns and operates Live Organically, an organic farm in Oak Grove, Minnesota.

When God speaks, Lakisha Witter listens—even when He asks her to do something a little bit unusual. Five years ago, for example, Witter sensed God’s call to move from her home state of Florida to an uncertain—and definitely much colder—future in Minnesota. Leaving her job and extended family behind, she loaded up her possessions and began the long drive north. When she reached Kentucky, she found a hotel room and considered her situation. “I am a planner by nature,” she says, “but in Kentucky I realized I had no job and no place to stay once I got to Minnesota. So I started praying.” Within a day, Witter received two calls—one about a job, and one letting her know that her offer on a house had been accepted.

Fast forward two years. Witter, who is passionate about education, was now convinced she should move to Africa to work for a nonprofit that supported village schools. True to form, she sold her house and got ready to go. But God told her something very different: Buy a farm. “I had never farmed before and I knew nothing about farming,” she says. For Witter, however, that was a minor detail. Soon she purchased a farm in Oak Grove, Minnesota.

The first year on the farm, Witter planned to grow food only for herself. Struggling with some health issues, she visited doctors and a nutritionist, then revamped her diet and lifestyle, becoming a vegetarian. She committed to organic farming practices and named her farm Live Organically. She ate her own homegrown food, and when her harvest was abundant, she gave fresh produce to churches.

In 2019, Witter became an adjunct instructor in Bethel’s graduate program in special education. Already working as a special education director overseeing numerous charter schools, she was seeking to merge her faith with education, fusing her teaching and her journey with God. “Bethel has helped me grow in Christlikeness and my ability to extend both grace and accountability to others,” she says. “I’ve been encouraged to grow as a leader and in my ability to develop leadership in others.”

Witter now saw a clear opportunity to blend her vocations of teaching and farming. In 2020, her second year of farming, she received an urban agriculture grant from the Department of Agriculture, which she used to launch a summer program teaching organic farming practices. Several Bethel community work-study students interned at Live Organically, participating in the full experience of planting, growing, harvesting, and taking food to local markets. “I wanted to offer students the opportunity to be grounded in practical skills and in faith,” says Witter. “I teach them an appreciation of hard work, taking care of the Earth, and giving things what they need to grow. Different plants—like people—grow differently, so each crop has a different, individualized care plan.”

Intern Lizzy Carson ’22, a nursing major and reconciliation studies minor, says she reaped a harvest of insight and knowledge. “Lakisha taught me about organic growing and how to care well for the Earth,” says Carson. “I’ve learned that farming takes persistence and dedication, and experienced the anticipation and joy that comes with harvesting. Lakisha also beautifully demonstrates partnership in the way she exchanges physical resources and knowledge with those around her. I witnessed the power of communities sharing resources and wisdom.”

Witter is quick to point out the natural connection between growing food and growing people. “Our interns are so actively engaged—willing to learn, collaborate, and take on ownership. It’s good to know I was able to plant some seeds in them, and I look forward to watching them grow.” 

Carson says her growth will translate directly to her career path. “I plan to apply my experience with Live Organically to promote food equity and justice within my field of study,” she explains. “I hope in the future I will have the opportunity to partner with communities to increase access to green spaces, local food, and nutrition education as a means to decrease health disparities and promote equity. My experience with Live Organically has transformed the way in which I hope to interact with healthcare systems and our world.”

Meanwhile, Witter—the self-described planner by nature—already has a 10-year plan for the future of Living Organically. She wants to incorporate an ecosystem, including chickens for egg production. She plans to innovate, adding solar panels and greenhouse hydroponics production, growing plants without soil.  “With COVID-19, we’ve seen how the world can change in an instant,” she says. “What will the world look like 10 years from now? Farming can help us sustain and support ourselves and others in uncertain times.”

If Witter’s future is anything like her past, uncertainty seems part of the package. Yet one thing is certain. When God speaks next—no matter how unusual the instructions—Lakisha Witter will be listening.

Community Engaged Learning at Bethel.

Bethel offers opportunities for students to serve and learn in a variety of internships, partnerships, and servant leadership opportunities within local communities. 

Learn more