Praised be Jesus Christ! Some of you might remember the song “Rain on the Scarecrow” by John Mellencamp that came out in 1985. It’s a melancholic look at the plight of the family farm, which has practically disappeared from our American way of life. My Dad was a lifelong member of the National Farmer’s Organization and he always advocated for family farmers. Like everything else in our fallen world, agriculture has been damaged by greed, making it impossible for small farms to survive. Please understand that running a big farm is not inherently evil, but it’s a sad state of affairs when a smaller farm has no chance of making ends meet. Analogous is what I witnessed in Italy: Italians love little shops that specialize in fruits or vegetables or breads or meats. They used to have little stores that carried fresh items straight from the farm. These days the large supermarkets have taken over in Italy and gone are most of the little shops that once flourished. Once again, supermarkets are not a bad idea, but their drive for efficiency and financial success has had its downside. If you would like to learn more, watch the movies “Food, Inc.” and “King Corn.” Now all of this is a buildup to encouraging you to support our local farmers – and you can do so this week by attending the Central Wisconsin State Fair. For our children we owe them the lesson of where their food comes from and how it gets there. We do not have a garden at the rectory, but all summer long we benefit from those of you who do, and we pray for you all the time! Fresh blueberries, strawberries, corn on the cob, tomatoes, and cucumbers are just a few of the items given to us. Life presents us with many opportunities, one of which is choosing some causes to support. Attending the fair this week is one way to show support for our farmers – and God knows they need our support. As a tribute to all who raise the food that keeps us alive and healthy, I will end with Paul Harvey’s famous 1978 speech about farmers: “And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer. God said, "I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board." So God made a farmer. "I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife's done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon -- and mean it." So God made a farmer. God said, "I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, 'Maybe next year.' I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain'n from 'tractor back,' put in another seventy-two hours." So God made a farmer. God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor's place. So God made a farmer. God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week's work with a five-mile drive to church. "Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life 'doing what dad does.'" So God made a farmer.”
May God bless all farmers, that they be good stewards of His animals and His land!