Bikers for Broccoli.

Pastor Duncan Overrein of Crossfire Biker Church

I’m not much of a biker chick (I proudly ride a scooter, dude) and precious few people confuse me with an evangelical Christian, but I have to tell you, I was about ready to jump on a Harley and get a few big Jesus tattoos after meeting the liturgical heads of the Crossfire Biker Church in Wilkes, North Carolina, during my trip with Heifer to Appalachia.

Big, sweet Dwight “Bubba” Smith

Duncan Overrein and Dwight (Bubba) Smith are the Associate Pastors (Alan Rice is the Senior Pastor) of Crossfire, an admittedly unorthodox United Methodist Church. Their sanctuary is in Cooler #1 of a 17,000 square-foot former refrigerated trucking terminal, their choir is a kick-ass hard rock band, and their collection basket is called “Loot the Boot” –but if their mission isn’t pure love in action, I don’t know what is.

Duncan and Bubba were called to the ministry after admittedly colorful pasts, and they have thrown their hearts and their Harleys into the work. With Heifer’s help, they’ve created The Giving Table, a hub for a regional food system whose mission is to bring jobs, better nutrition and income to Wilkes County.

The collection boots.

Bubba, who worked in Crossfire’s terminal/tabernacle for 8 years and knows every nook and cranny in the massive place, is planning to use every square foot of refrigerated space to distribute grass-fed, hormone-free beef to a burgeoning market, plus they’ve already started a food pantry that feeds 50 needy families a week, partnered with Wilkes County to get a $358,000 grant to build a greenhouse that is supplying thousands of seedlings to local gardeners, and started their own one-acre vegetable garden that is donating oodles of fresh produce to those in need.

And there are a lot of needy people in Wilkes County. Fully 25% of Crossfire’s own congregation is unemployed, and the county is one of the poorest and most food insecure in the state. But on the up side, Wilkes is fourth of North Carolina’s 100 counties in beef production. So Smith is working with Heifer’s Jeffrey Scott to make that a viable enterprise: buying finished steers from local farmers, partnering with a local slaughterhouse (more jobs!), distributing the meat to stores and restaurants, and donating 10% of all that beef to the Second Harvest food pantry. Which is really a good thing, as nationally food pantry demand has gone up by about 50% while government support has decreased by about 66%.

Until they get started with beef, sugar & salt hams are curing in Crossfire’s warehouse.

Meanwhile, out back Duncan is overseeing Crossfire’s big, beautiful God’s Garden in Community with a passel of volunteers who show up every day to stake, tend, harvest & weed. When I ask Duncan if he’s always been a gardener, he looks at me like I’m a bit loco and says,  “No, I’ve always been a biker. But the Lord showed me to it.” I ask how the Lord showed him and he replies, “In Genesis, Adam and Eve were told ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread’ … so I figured I needed to learn how to grow things. And look how awesome God is!”

Duncan gestures exuberantly  at his abundant garden and I totally concur: it is pretty darn awesome.

Duncan’s green miracle.

Pastors Bubba and Duncan still have a long road to hoe before they get their meat processing venture off the ground; it’s a complicated enterprise with lots of moving parts and hurdles to overcome. But they have Heifer’s support, they are stepping out in faith, and they’re not afraid of much– maybe because they’ve seen a lot of bad road.

As Duncan philosophically puts it “As bikers, we’ve always been a brotherhood, always worked hard, always lent a helping hand, and always had each other’s backs. So I figure we’ve been doing God’s work all along.”

Pastor Duncan Overrein, Brother Jeffrey Scott of Heifer & Pastor Bubba Smith talking it out.

Do I hear an amen?

Categories: Agriculture, Animals, Appalachia, Food, Heifer International, Photography, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “Bikers for Broccoli.

  1. Deb Morrow Palmer


  2. And Amen! This is fantastic. More amazing works the Heifer is helping- I love it!

  3. Martha Radatz

    Amen, sister! Gotta love this!
    You said, “With Heifer’s help, they’ve created The Giving Table”— in what specific ways is Heifer helping…with a direct grant? advice? seedings? Curious how this works w/o any animals or “passing on the gift”.

    • So happy you asked for specifics, Martha! Heifer is supporting a very cool experimental program to raise barley and alfalfa fodder INSIDE the Crossfire terminal … that will be used by 3 farmers to “finish off” the calf/cows (and see if that will allay the somewhat “gamey” taste that some ALL grass-fed beef seems to have…) Crossfire will be raising enough fodder to feed 81 cows for 90 days .. and then they’ll see if that is the “magic taste bullet” that wins the taste test. Heifer is also working with cow/calf operators to bring in new breeds that will provide the optimum taste/strength combo and thrive in this climate. So — yeah, it’s all Heifer’s real strengths in livestock raising/breeding/feeding !!

  4. Earth Ocean Sky Redux

    You know the phrase ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’…well, this story says it all in spades. Bikers get such a bum rap, from their loud bikes to the tats to the long hair. But these men are so very typical of all the good that bikers do but rarely get recognition for. (I know, I have a biker son). People who do such marvelous things come in all shapes and sizes and persuasions. I’m thrilled you met these men and saw them for all the kindness they are sharing. I think you qualify to be a biker chick now Betty!

    And by the way AWESOME regional victory for the Classy Awards!

    • Thanks SO much, EOSR! I have to agree, I have a soft spot in my heart for these guys … they were just so sweet and creative and accepting .. and so proficient at everything they were doing!! So happy you agree… and go, Will!!

  5. Wanda Eason

    As a Heifer volunteer, I am so glad you have included the US as part of your 12 X 12 project! I think in the past we have all known more about Heifer’s work in other countries than in our own. Now that we have the new “Seeds to Feed” initiative, I’m so glad to get some first hand looks at some of the things going on in the US. Not only do I know more, but I can also share more about the work in the US with those I come in contact with. I’ve loved all your posts and have been following you since the beginning! I was fortunate enough to see some projects in Peru on a study tour in 2010 When you were in Peru it was as if I had gone back to see old friends there. Thanks for volunteering in this way for Heifer.

  6. Thanks so much, Wanda — I’m really so glad that the posts rang true to you from Peru … and that you are learning more about the USA projects, too! I think that Seeds of Change has enormous potential to help galvanize and leverage the popular local food movement and really allow impoverished communities get involved and profit from this healthy trend, both inside their communities and abroad. Hope you keep reading … I love that you’re along on the journey!!

  7. The bikers had “always been doing God’s work”. Oh Betty, you’re such a card !

    They are now — not so sure they were THEN. 😉

  8. pat shropshire

    AMEN !

  9. Laura

    Amen sister !!

    Really Betty,. . . .this post just brings home the breath and range of Heifer amazing projects. How fascinating that must be for you while visiting, which in turn is equally as fascinating and illuminating to us.

    Kudo’s all around!

    • Thanks, Laura — and I have to say, when I first started this project my husband was a bit afraid that it would be tedious for my readers (him) because it would be the same thing over and over. But as it’s turned out, it’s endlessly different and compelling — in each country, poverty is different and uniquely confounding to try to change– and Heifer’s work SO expresses an individual response to each country, from the inside out. So — yeah! I love this Collective Impact enterprise model in Appalachia (and the Delta) … and of course, the bad-ass/good guy bikers!!

  10. Pingback: One & Done Sunday #22 | JM Randolph, accidentalstepmom

  11. I’ve always wondered what the connection is between motorcycles and not shaving. But maybe these guys are just too busy with their amazing work. I love seeing vegetable gardens created by people who really know what they’re doing. Unemployment at 25 percent — yikes.

    Thank you, Betty, for another inspiring post.

  12. Thanks for writing, BB — it was really striking to see the level of unemployment in Appalachia (and in the Delta it was far worse). There were simply no jobs to be had, and the majority of people seemed old or simply defeated. I think FDR was quite right when he talked about fear and despair being the true enemy and cruelest consequence of unemployment — and why I’m still waiting for a new Civilian Conservation Corps, to get unemployed young men & women out doing all the infrastructural projects that so need doing! But I digress … back to your bigger question: I think bikers like to feel the wind in their hair, as much of it as possible. So long hair is great, and facial hair is just gravy. So to speak.
    Lovely to hear from you !

  13. Amen! What a beautiful story. Congratulations to this mission. I love the story and I love how they are having fun with what they are doing along the way. Best of luck to them and thanks for sharing. David

  14. Oh, Duncan and Bubba are definitely having fun — working hard as hell, but having fun for SURE! Thanks for the comment, David!!

  15. Susan Smythe

    Amen! this is one of the best – but that’s such a hard determination to make – I agree with whoever above said it’s great that you’re doing a trip in the US – it’s not a “foreign” problem, it’s a human problem, and it’s everywhere – but so is the solution. The only problem is that all of these stories make me want to quit my job and join them- so thanks for doing that for all of us.

    great article in the Heifer Magazine today!

    • Thanks so much, Susan! I hope I get to see you over Labor Day when I’m up in Swarthmore — this was such a great journey to be in the USA and seeing Heifer’s work here, where it’s also really needed! I think we both have the same feeling of wanting to jump in and do something … I love that about you!!

  16. rose

    I want to move there. Not realistic though. Thanks for sharing all these interesting lives.

    • Boone is pretty darn fascinating, i have to say … it definitely made me want to move somewhere that’s close to the farming community… and I need a GARDEN!!

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