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Catholic farmers make impact on global level

BY SHANNON PHILPOTT-SANDERS
Staff Writer

When Fran Etter and her son Max had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador with Friends Across Borders in 2013, she didn’t know just how much the trip would impact her family.

“I was looking for more of a way to make an impact on a global level,” said Etter. “Having seen how our farming practices impact the world, I think that we have a duty to help.”

Mark and Fran Etter, parishioners at St. Felicitas in Beaver Prairie, found a way to make an impact at home.

The couple has set aside a section of their acreage for the Catholic Relief Services-partnered Foods Resource Bank and have enlisted the help of their farming neighbors Jim and Katie Buehne of St. Rose to do the same.

“I like the idea of being involved in rural life,” said Etter. “My husband is a farmer and this is something he can be involved in, too.”

Etter was contacted by a Foods Resource Bank representative and she decided to look at the rural angle of global solidarity. This wasn’t her first experience with FRB, though. “I was introduced to FRB when I was a part of the Just Faith Program with partner parishes of the diocese,” she said. “I realized there are many issues globally we should be concerned about.”

The Foods Resource Bank sponsors more than 200 U.S. growing projects, companies, organizations and volunteers to help people in developing countries grow their own food. The Etters and the Buehnes make an annual contribution of an acreage of profits each year to Catholic Relief Services, which is then funneled to the Foods Resource Bank program.

“We don’t have an official group at the moment, but I would like to encourage other farmers to get involved,” said Etter. “It takes a lot of individuals to grow this type of program, but if people spread the word, parishes and individuals may get on board to host fundraisers or encourage farmers to earmark some of their acreage.”

Etter already has plans to spread the word about the needs of the Foods Resource Bank. She will be sharing her story at an informational meeting for farmers in the diocese Feb. 10 at St. Mary’s in Mt. Vernon. The brainstorming meeting, sponsored by CRS, will focus on the farmer to farmer program and features speakers such as Etter and ag specialists.

For Etter, a teacher at Belleville West High School, the farmer to farmer program is a part of her family’s life. “It’s important work to keep me grounded and it keeps me connected to the rural lifestyle of farmers.”

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