Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Michel Desjardins

Advisor Role

Dissertation Advisor

Second Advisor

Dr. Janet McLellan

Advisor Role

Dissertation Advisory Committee Member

Third Advisor

Dr. Erich Fox Tree

Advisor Role

Dissertation Advisory Committee Member


This thesis examines the Christian identity and characteristics of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO), a general farm organization active in the diverse agricultural sector of Ontario, Canada. It highlights the intersection of religion and farming that emerged from interviews and participant observation within this group. The thesis probes what it means for them to be responsible Christian farmers in contemporary agriculture. Christian and secular scholars from three key areas of scholarship—Dutch immigration to Canada, agriculture of the middle or family farming, and Christian stewardship—help to contextualize their responses.

The CFFO was founded as a Dutch neo-Calvinist organization within the sphere of agriculture in Ontario, based on the theology of sphere sovereignty. It has since grown to include members and leaders from many Christian denominations. In their advocacy for Christian principles in agriculture, the CFFO has turned to two important concepts commonly used in North America—family farming and stewardship—both tied to discussions of values and the broader impacts of agriculture. Family farming expresses the importance for them of owner-operated farms that support strong family and community relationships, as well as familiarity with and stewardship of the land, plants and animals being farmed. Fair competition and fair prices in the marketplace supports the vocation of farming as important work, worth doing well.

Farmers’ ethic of Christian stewardship expresses their deep sense of responsibility to others through their work. The formulation of Christian stewardship within the CFFO is connected to but also distinct from other formulations of stewardship. The thesis argues that there is a spectrum of opinion within the CFFO on how best to put Christian stewardship into practice in contemporary farming. This extends between farmers who advocate imitating and maintaining the integrity of creation, and farmers who advocate developing and responsibly using creation.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season