Fred Bahnson

Director of the Food, Health, and Ecological Well-Being Program,
Assistant Professor of the Practice of Ecological Well-Being

BA, Montana State University; MTS, Duke Divinity School

Bahnson’s research and teaching focus on the intersection of ecology, agriculture, and contemplative spirituality. In his co-authored book Making Peace With the Land, he explored how the scriptural vision of Christ’s reconciliation is not limited to people, but rather is cosmic in scope, which leads to practical implications for agriculture and ecological restoration. His book Soil and Sacrament tells the story of the church-supported community garden he co-founded in 2005, as well as describing his more recent pilgrimage among four agrarian faith communities—Trappist, Protestant, Jewish, and Pentecostal. Part spiritual autobiography, part narrative journalism, Soil and Sacrament was described by Kirkus in its starred review as “A profound, moving treatise on finding God in gardening.” He continues to explore the use of literary nonfiction as a distinct theological genre, and is currently at work on a book that will articulate a contemplative response to climate change.

Learn more about the Food, Health, and Ecological Well-Being Program »

Religious Affiliation

Episcopal Church

Courses Taught

  • Field, Table, Communion: Food and the Work of Ministry
  • Modern Spiritual Writing: A Language to Make Us Whole
  • The Monastic Impulse Old & New: Prayer, Work, and the Spirituality of Food
  • Roots & Branches: Eco-Judaism for Christian Leaders
  • Tree of Life: Climate Change and Ecological Vocation


  • Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith, Simon & Schuster, 2013.
  • Making Peace With the Land (co-authored with Norman Wirzba), InterVarsity Press, 2012.

Select Essays, Journal Articles, and Book Chapters

  • “The Priest in the Trees,” Harper’s Magazine, December 2016. Volume 333, No.1999
  • “Sons of Noah,” Image, Summer 2015, Issue 85.
  • “Back to the Garden: A New Asceticism,” Reflections, Yale Divinity School, Fall 2014.
  • “What Grows in a Garden?” Washington Post, July 31, 2013
  • “The Underground Life of Prayer,” Image, Spring 2013, Issue 77.
  • “The Day After,” Oxford American, Spring 2013.
  • “Ending the Hunger Season,” Sojourners, August 2011.
  • “Field of Teens,” World Ark, Summer 2011.
  • “Reading Isaiah in Chiapas,” The Sun, April 2011.
  • “Churches Moving Beyond Hunger Relief,” in Worldwatch Institute, ed., State of the World 2011—Innovations That Nourish the Planet. W.W. Norton, 2011.
  • “The Tender Groin of the Land,” in Jennifer Bove, ed., Wild With Child: Adventures of Families in the Great Outdoors, Traveler’s Tales, 2010.
  • “Could Acacia Trees Solve Africa’s Hunger Problems?” co-authored with Danielle Nierenberg, Christian Science Monitor, Dec.24th, 2010.
  • “Acacias in the Desert: Breaking the Cycle of Drought,” Christian Century,20th, 2010.
  • “Farmed Out: Wes Jackson on the Need to Reinvent Agriculture,” The Sun, October 2010.
  • “The Salvation of the City: Defiant Gardens in the Great Northern Feedlot,” in Wendell Berry and Religion: Heaven’s Earthly Life, Joel Shuman and L. Roger Owens. University Press of Kentucky, 2009.
  • “Martyr’s Mirror” in The Sun, June 2009.
  • “The Field at Anathoth: A Garden Becomes a Protest,” Orion, July/August 2007.
  • “Climbing the Sphinx,” in Best American Spiritual Writing 2007, ed. Philip Zaleski. Mariner, 2007.

Select Academic Lectures

  • Lecture for “Value of Food” series, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, NY, March 10, 2016.
  • Keynote for Food Justice, Faith, and Climate conference, Univ. of Arizona in Tucson, Feb. 10-12, 2016.
  • Jerry Jackson Lecture in the Humanities, Western Carolina University, January 27, 2016.
  • Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, “The Good Earth: Creation & Ministry in an Ecological Age.” June 8-10, 2015, Pittsburgh, PA.
  • Nourish New Haven conference, Yale Divinity School, Sept.19-20, 2014, New Haven, CT.
  • Junaluska Signature Series lecture, Aug.10, 2014, Lake Junaluska, NC.
  • Festival of Faiths, May 14, 2014, Louisville, KY.
  • Summit on Environment and Global Climate Change, University of Central Florida, March 25, 2014, Orlando, FL.
  • Religion and Society Lecture Series, DePaul University, March 5, 2014, Chicago, IL.
  • Memphis Center for Food and Faith, February 1, 2014, Memphis, TN.
  • Shi Center for Sustainability, Furman University, Nov.11, 2013, Greenville, SC.
  • NC Campuses Against Hunger Summit, Wake Forest University, Sept.6, 2013, Winston-Salem, NC.
  • TEDx Manhattan, “Changing the Way We Eat,” Feb.16th, 2013, New York, NY.
  • Reconciler’s Weekend, Duke Divinity School, Sept. 20-21, 2012
  • Wake Forest University School of Divinity, “Healing Communities” conference, Sept.30, 2011
  • Furman University, “Abundance and Scarcity: Rethinking Food in God’s Economy” and “The Altar of Creation: Food and Sustainability,” Feb.7-8. 2010

Visiting Writer Events, Educational Series, and Church Presentations

  • Faculty for “Into the Fire” writing workshops, The Sun magazine, Wildacres, NC May 20-22, 2016.
  • Search for Meaning Book Festival, Feb.28, 2015, Seattle, WA.
  • Visiting Writer for UNC Asheville Creative Writing program, Oct.15, 2014, Asheville, NC.
  • Visiting Writer for Alan K. Smith Reading Series, Trinity College, Sept.18, 2014, Hartford, CT.
  • Wild Goose Festival, writer’s talk with Sara Miles, June 27-28, 2014, Hot Springs, NC.
  • Arkansas Literary Festival, April 24-26, 2014, Little Rock, AR.
  • Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing, April 10-12, 2014, Grand Rapids, MI.
  • Visiting Writer at Appalachian State University, April 3, 2014, Boone, NC.
  • Hazon benefit for Front Range Farmer’s Fund, Impact Hub Boulder, Dec.9, 2013, Boulder, CO.
  • Let’s Talk About Food festival, October 4, 2013, Boston, MA.
  • Carolina Mountains Literary Festival, Sept.12-14, 2013, Burnsville, NC.
  • BookMarks Book Festival, Setp.7, 2013, Winston Salem, NC.
  • Wild Goose Festival, Aug.8-11, 2013, Hot Springs, NC.
  • Come to the Table NC, March 15, 2013, Sylva, NC.
  • Visiting Writer in Creative Nonfiction at Brevard College, April 2012, Brevard, NC.
  • Creation care conference, University UMC, Chapel Hill, NC, April 28-29, 2012
  • Keynote for “Come to the Table” conference, Black Mountain, NC, March 2011
  • “A Rooted People—Church, Place, and Agriculture in an Urban World” conference, Englewood Christian Church, Indianapolis, IN. Oct.28-29, 2010.

Select Honors and Awards

  • North Carolina Artist Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction from NC Arts Council, 2012.
  • K. Kellogg Food & Community fellowship 2009-10
  • William Raney Scholar in nonfiction at Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, 2008.
  • Pilgrimage Essay Award for “Tender Groin of the Land,” 2006.

Author Website