It’s almost harvest time; we can all see it as we drive down our highways on short trips or long, and farmers are preparing to combine soybeans or shell corn, preparing crops for market. Family farms are not as scarce as hen’s teeth, but they have given way, in large part, to corporate farming on a grand scale.
Some of those corporate entities are comprised of families of farmers, so I continue to think in those terms and remain in awe of the family farmer and the dangers of farming they live with daily, while pursuing a way of life they love. While it must be satisfying to see the harvest looming in the weeks ahead, I would continue to worry about the sun, the rain, and whether the swollen rivers will push the water into the fields so close to harvest time.
At their core, farmers must be believers, optimists that pray and trust God. Without God, farming would be a lonely and more difficult way to live.
Problems — or “challenges,” as people would rather say — abound for farmers: the cost of fertilizers and chemicals continues on an upward trajectory; regulations about seeds continue to cause consternation among various groups of people, and water use rights are driving people apart, to name just a few issues plaguing those who grow our food. In some parts of this country rationing water has become a way of life, and farmers are embroiled in disputes with neighbors about that water. Here, and farther south, this year we worry about too much water, drowning the crops.
Add to that, people who shop at stores and live in towns don’t really know what goes into growing the food they so nonchalantly put into their carts.
Jesus didn’t talk about the fertilizers to be spread, the tractors needed, the literal, emotional, philosophical and theological “costs” of farming, but he did talk about workers in the vineyard, about sewing seed and soil; and God, in Genesis, talks about creating the earth.
Too often, small farmers can’t make it when their crops burn or drown, their equipment breaks down and can no longer be repaired, or when the bank must be paid even when the money isn’t in the account. It doesn’t happen every time, but it can happen.
Large farms face problems as well, and we often describe those farms in negative language, which they sometimes deserve. If farm owners are completely removed from the land and the animals, it’s difficult to see anything but the bottom line, which obscures what’s happening to soil and animals.
We have to remember that God saw what he created as “good,” and we must continue to make sure God’s creation remains good.
As we look to the harvest, we pray for farmers and their safety; we pray the prices are commensurate with the costs so they can continue to wake up each morning to do the jobs they love so that we can enjoy the benefits of their labor.