[Editor’s Note: An excerpt of the following appears in CRL’s Spring 2019 Magazine, Our Farms to Our Tables. CRL interviewed two friends, Tom Murphy and Ron Cramer, about how they define “farm-to-table.” The following is Tom’s response. To read Ron’s response, click here.]
What does “farm-to-table” mean to you?
We are extremely blessed to be living in a rural community where the “farm-to-table” has several meanings that can be lived out on a regular basis. When I think of the basics of providing nutrition for our family we are able to purchase or produce some of the key products for our consumption. We buy locally produced beef and poultry and grow our own salad and potatoes. In the summer we are able to buy fresh vegetables at local farmers markets. I believe this is a great source of good nutrition and keeps us eating right. Now everyone across the country can’t buy locally produced beef but they can watch at the supermarket where it is produced and learn to purchase quality products. As I think of buying products at the supermarket, I have always tried to teach our grandchildren to sort out “marketing” from facts about food products. Learn to be an educated buyer not a buyer of fads and the marketing of the day. We got involved several years ago in growing our own salad greens in a hydroponic system to insure the freshest, safest, and most nutritious product for our own consumption. You might say we have become salad snobs. The effort in the hydroponic industry is to provide fresh salad greens within 150 miles of consumption and this is seems to be catching on across the country today.
The table has been a significant focal point for our family over the years. When our children were young it was the daily meeting place that was begun with prayer and followed with good food and discussion of the events of the day and expectations for events to come. As you watch your family grow and start their own families you wonder how their past experiences shape what they do and what seems important to them. We have watched them carry on the tradition with their families and see how important it is to them to come back home for the special Holiday Dinners. They call and make special requests of their Mom to prepare their favorites as we gather once again around the family table with appreciation of each other and our many blessings.
What does “farm-to-table” have to do with your Catholic faith?
At the beginning I said that the table has several meanings and the second one may be even more important than the first. Again we are blessed to belong to a small Catholic Community Parish of 33 family units. This parish is our second family and we look forward to gathering around the sacred table of the altar where we meet our friends and feast with Jesus Christ. At this table we address the needs of the family. We discuss the ways to help one another and grow deeper in our appreciation of our Catholic faith. Like any family we have our struggles but we work through them. After each Mass, which is on Saturday evening, we have social time with snacks and discussion with each other how we are all doing and even discussions on what needs to be done for the community and church property. Everyone takes part in maintenance committee work like mowing, snow removal and minor repairs at no cost to parish. I know that in some churches people are asked not to visit in the church proper. We encourage those who can’t stand to sit in the church proper and visit. We just spent an hour with our friend Jesus and now He becomes part of our parish visiting. It is much like continued prayer on a very personal community basis. This table of the Lord then gives us the strength to go forward for our week and we all do look forward to coming together again to be with friends and family.
We see today the moral fiber of our nation coming undone and want to do something about it. We want to preserve our Catholic faith and family values. Our nature is to try and fix the big problems and we become frustrated. Because it did not happen all at once, but has been eroding over time, it will take time to turn back to our God. Catholic Rural Life has helped me understand that we can’t fix the world but we can help those people in our circle of influence. Just little things done in our community by our small parish can multiply as we all positively touch others lives. A few things we observe here is that each quarter our parish takes a percentage of what is given to the church in our Sunday offerings and presents that to a person or family in the community that could use a little help. It is all done quietly. Our parish of farmers is much like most Ag areas. We pull together when someone is ill at harvest or planting and folks show up to do the harvesting or planting. We just help our circle of influence. We are not perfect but getting up from the Lords table we must go out and serve and live the Gospel as best we can.
— Tom Murphy lives with his family in Kansas, where he farms and has a hydroponic greens business and uses the Vertical Farming Technology that Ron develops.