Sharing the love of Jesus Christ, through our most basic needs - food & fellowship


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Lauren Calandrilla

Jerry Calandrilla

Jessica Sweitzer

Owen Sweitzer


Faith, Family, Fellowship

First Fruits Homestead is a non for-profit faith based ministry in Charleston IL.  Jerry and Lauren Calandrilla and Owen and Jess Sweitzer founded the homestead back in 2015, in which we all felt the calling to get back to a basic life style.  In the early development of this concept we had set values on what we wanted to focus on; Faith, Family and Fellowship (community).   As our ministry developed we found that Farming is the vehicle in which we can Give, Teach and connect.

Farming is an amazing way to give.   Our Ministry’s name is taken out of several passages in the Old and New Testament.  Both in reference to giving of our “First Fruits” or our tithe to the church or in James 1:18 referencing to the members of the first church “that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” giving of ourselves.  First Fruits Homestead allows us to give of our land, our produce and our lives.  We are able to bless our surrounding food pantries, outreach and other local organizations with our best, our “First Fruits” of what we grow.

Our four acre garden with its numerous varieties of fruits and vegetables sustain our ministry of giving and educating. We are a not for profit that is 100% volunteer operated, and we are blessed that the profits from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and sales at Coles County Farmers’ Markets supports our giving to local food pantries, first responders, and other organizations. This year we have given 15% or 2,200 pounds of produce to these organizations. 

We raise an assortment of animals ranging from a herd of mini cows to flock of ducks, from a cluck of chickens to a mess of children. All of which support the growth of the garden. Well at this point we believe the children eat more than they work. And sometimes we have to plant certain vegetables in hard to find places to keep the kids out.  Working daily with animals and the garden reveals God through His creation.  Being closely connected with creation continually points and connects you to God. 

Job 12; 7-10

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.  Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done This? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12: 7-10.

The connection with God continues as we share the farm with our families, friends, visitors and volunteers.  Throughout the year we have over 300 Eastern Illinois University students volunteer on the farm.  Many have never experienced this life style, or even been in the country… and sharing the farm is an amazing witness…. because in the garden, creation cannot be overlooked.