Farm, faith leaders conclude international gathering

By Catholic Rural Life on July 3, 2015

Ethical Food and Agriculture

An international gathering of farm leaders in Milan, Italy on June 27-28 concluded with an affirmation of the “vocation of agriculture” and the great responsibility of agricultural leaders for serving the common good.

An influential leader of the Catholic Church also reiterated his support for this endeavor that seeks to more profoundly weave together faith, farming and the environment.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican, expressed his support and hope for the forthcoming document, The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader, due out later this year.

“This publication aims to affirm the dignity of the farmer and agricultural leader, and will encourage their commitments to the common good, including care of the earth,” he said.

Download the presentation by Cardinal Turkson here.

Listen to an audio version here.

Jim Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life, explained the importance for a faith-based guide in the practice of agriculture and the business of food production.

“Many of us have a blind spot in how faith applies to our work lives, especially those in the agricultural field,” he said. “We all need help in seeing how to put our faith in action in our work-a-day world. What does the teachings of Christ have to do with us as farmers, farm workers, or food workers? What does it mean to be called by God in the vocation of agriculture? These are important questions that can transform the sustainable production of food for all.”

National Farmers Union is supporting this project as well. NFU vice president of international relations and the presidents of four Midwestern States’ Farmers Unions were present in Milan at the two-day conference this past weekend.

“The cardinal’s support reinforces our efforts to draw attention to food production as a social responsibility,” said Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union. “Having the Vatican support The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader will only strengthen its credibility.”

Doug Peterson, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, affirmed the importance of having farmers take a leading role in these discussions weaving together faith, food and the environment. “It is breaking new ground in support of family farmers by changing the thinking from corporate agriculture to farming for family sustainability and profit,” Peterson said.

“Farmers have solutions and answers for the complex problems of food energy and stewardship because of their relationship with the land,” said Darin Von Ruden, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union.

Montana Farmers Union president Alan Merrill noted, “Only through agricultural leadership will the human aspects of food and hunger be solved to sustain and continue life.”

The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader document will be released later this year and provide practical ways for food policy and agricultural leaders to apply their faith to their work. The overall Faith, Food & the Environment project is supported by Catholic Rural Life, headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., and the International Catholic Rural Association, based in Rome, Italy.

Visit Faith, Food & the Environment for more details, including presentations from the Milan conference and the proceedings of an initial symposium held in St. Paul, Minn., last November.

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