From the very beginning agriculture has been an integral part of our Cistercian monasteries. The monks of New Melleray have always lived close to the land. While today we lease our crop land to local farmers, we still can enjoy the rich experience of growing food for our own table and for the guesthouse dining room. In recent years work in our expansive organic vegetable garden has been an especially rich experience for the contemplative mind. Immersing your hands in the soil, you are immersed in the beauty of God’s creation. Garden work strengthens your solidarity with the earth and with all earth’s peoples. You are in solidarity with all of Adam’s race as you battle thorns and thistles and raise your food by the sweat of your brow, yet you need only to look up to experience the divine in eastern Iowa’s awesome blue sky, listen to the beauty of a bird’s song, or perhaps see an eagle soaring overhead. The work of your hands combined with God’s gift of our rich Iowa soil produce the simple pleasures of summer sweet corn, sweet home grown tomatoes, and fresh green lettuce. Knowing who grew the food and where it came from makes the prayer of thanksgiving before the meal all the more meaningful.