After football, a leap of faith to a life with purpose

Not surprisingly, Steve Hartmann provided another dose of decency over the weekend with his On the Road profile of former NFL player Jason Brown, who walked away from the game (after he was released by the St. Louis Rams) to become a farmer and feed hungry people, even though he didn’t know anything about farming.

The story first came from the Raleigh News and Observer earlier this month.

“You look over a sweet potato field and you don’t see a crop,” Brown said. “The vines are kind of wilting. There is nothing there to pick. You’ve got to have faith.

“I went out to plow up the potatoes last week and looked behind the tractor. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite as beautiful as those big brown potatoes lying everywhere.”

Brown’s First Fruits Farm already had yielded 10,000 pounds of cucumbers, also given away.

About half the sweet potato crop has been harvested, helped by the Society of St. Andrews. Rebecca Page, the Triangle coordinator of the gleaning group, had about 200 people and 13 trucks in the fields last week and hopes to have at least that many again Saturday.

The group usually goes into fields after a harvest and gleans the crops that were missed, but Brown told Page that he wanted to give away the entire crop.

“Saturday was simply a wonderful day, but … we’re in over our heads,” Page said of harvesting so many potatoes. “Potatoes are the perfect food, and there is such a great need. … I know that it is all good and that this is wonderful, but when you are in the middle trying to organize something this big, there is some anxiety. We need a lot of help, but a lot of people are going to get food.”

“I know it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people,” he acknowledges. “This is the most rewarding thing I’ve done with my life. It’s living a life with purpose.”