A nice part of the Easter Season is how it blends so well with the renewal of the earth: the new buds, the spring blossoms, the leafing out of trees, and seedlings emerging from our gardens. For farmers, the Easter season coincides with planting time and a welcomed return to the fields.
I like to think that many farmers still take a moment to express thanks for their vocation. By this I mean their call to produce the food and fiber we all need as people. Although agriculture has become very much a business, the seasonal return to the field causes a farmer to pause and reflect on their life’s work.
As many of our Catholic Rural Life members know, we look to the farmer as a steward of the land: a devoted caretaker of God’s creation, or at least a part of it. We do this in grateful respect to St. Isidore the Farmerwhose feast day falls on May 15.
[See our Novena to St. Isidore, patron of rural people]
Farmers in North America have been blessed with fertile land, a moderate climate and a plentiful supply of fresh water. We pray it stays this way for generations to come. Although we may debate whether our society is a peaceful one, it is a fairly secure one with plentiful food.
In the spirit of Isidore, we must enjoin onto ourselves a responsibility to make sure that the next generation of farmers are left with healthy soils, clean air and clean water so that we can sustain food production for years on end.
This is the same call recently made by the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario in an Easter greeting to their members. I hope they don’t mind us repeating their message! In their blog posting, they firmly believe that their farmers are called to uncover the potential within the Creation.
Farmers who act as caretakers have the ability to learn new things about the Creation: how to nurture the environment and how to improve the productivity of crops and livestock. Of course, they don’t do this alone. Through farm organizations and extension services, they develop better management techniques and appropriate technology — all essential to sustainable agriculture in the long-term.
Like CFFO, we understand that farmers must approach their vocation as a business. But that should strengthen, not negate, their call to be responsible members of society. In this Easter Season, let us pray that farmers take a moment when in their fields and reflect on why they farm. Beyond bottom line economics, let us pray they do so for good of the earth, the viability of rural life and the health of us all.
It was twenty-five years ago that the Ontario bishops issued “The People and the Land” and a proclamation for sustainable food production. Twenty-five years later, there is an urgency for all of us – eaters and consumers in the cities! – to help farmers bear the cost of food security and environmental stewardship. Only in this way can we continue to sustain the lives of future generations.
Therefore, all of us are called to understand some of the challenges in agriculture today and the ethical considerations for consumers and farmers when making lifestyle choices that promote safe, sustainable agriculture. Catholic Rural Life is working towards this understanding as part of a project we call Faith, Food and the Environment.
Don’t worry! You will hear more about this endeavor through the rest of the year.
Robert Gronski, policy correspondent