Planting the Seeds for Food Security: A Poem - Catholic Rural Life

Planting the Seeds for Food Security: A Poem

Catholic Rural Life • March 20, 2014

Ethical Food and Agriculture

We’ll get to the poem in a moment. First, a word about the recent Seeds & Breeds summit meeting in Washington, DC. This was an invitation-only gathering of farmers, plant scientists, public university and USDA researchers, sustainable agriculture advocates, and other leaders concerned about the state of food production in our country. Catholic Rural Life board member Ron Rosmann, who is also an organic farmer from Iowa and occasional poet, was one of the invited participants.

The theme of the summit gathering was Meeting the Challenges of Food Security (click on the title for more details). This was an opportunity for experts to present their research and foster discussion among public plant breeders, federal policymakers, farmers and advocates. Invitees include research students and scientists from the nation’s top land grant universities, as well as farmers and USDA representatives.

This is a critical time for public plant breeding. According to new survey data, the U.S. has lost approximately 30% of our public plant breeding programs over the last 20 years. The national summit was held to build a clear policy pathway for ensuring that our public research investments are meeting the needs of a regionally appropriate, diverse, and resilient system of agricultural production.

The challenges we face in U.S. agriculture — and the global food system as well — urgently require us to shift our focus toward building greater resilience. Our current agro-industrial system is too genetically uniform and under the control of just a few agribusiness corporations.

So how do we bring about a change? Ron Rosmann suggests we begin with ourselves. He sent us this poem which he delivered at the food security summit:

We Plant the Seed

We plant the seed

but the harvest is not ours,

A speck of soil in our eyes,

in our lives,

in our time spent on the soil.

A speck of time in the eye of created time,

we plant the seed.


We weep for the soil,

so to the soil our speck returns,

our bodies return,

all bodies return.

We do not save our soil,

so to the river our speck of soil goes,

to the ocean where it weeps for us.

Sustenance for a future harvest that is not our own,

we plant the seed.


We plant seeds so we might live,

so others might live,

Who no longer stand on the soil,

standing instead on cement,

The hardened earth that will be ground up one day

returning back to soil,

we plant the seed.


The speck of soil in my eye sees the small Honduran farmer

riding his small pony up the mountain to tend his soil, his seeds.

Seeds that carry the memory of tens’ of thousands of years.

How long will they be his seeds,

his brother and sister farmers’ seeds?

The public seeds?

We plant the seeds.

We must save our seeds.


Who can really own the soil or the seed?

Do we own the sun?

Do we own our own name?

The speck of soil in my eye sees a hollowed out scarecrow

watching over a hollowed out field,

Grown from seed for a harvest that is not ours to save.

We plant the seeds.

We must save our seeds.


To be in communion

we strive to be

with the soil, with the seed,

with the art, with the science,

with all creation.


We are all farmers in our way.

We plant the seeds.

We save our seeds.


Poem by CRL Board member and organic farmer Ron Rosmann of Harlan, Iowa

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