A Harvest Harangue


My dad has had kidney stones for…a while. I’m not sure how long. Being Dad, he didn’t complain about it to us. He got up, he went to the field, he ran the combine, he fixed the combine, he unloaded grain, he fixed the grain auger, from sunup till after dark, trying to get the harvest in. He kept at it until he couldn’t get out of bed anymore.

And now the last 50 acres of grain are stuck in the field, and it is four days till Christmas.

This has been a difficult harvest season. Hard for me to watch, because I am stuck on the sidelines. I used to go help him–I’d drive the grain cart, spend a day with him–those are memories I really treasure. Even after the first kid or two, I would go and at least help move machinery. But now, all I can do is stand aside and watch, helplessly, as they struggle to bring the “harvest home.”

Which leads me to my main point. I am so frustrated with how oblivious people are to the situation of the agricultural community. Every single week at church, we pray for the troops overseas. Which is fine–obviously soldiers in harm’s way need prayers. Every week we pray for somebody’s tough economic times. But how, how, I ask, can they fail to recognize the difficulties faced by families trying to remain in the farming business?

Yes, I live in a city of 100,000 plus. It’s a city. But it is a city with an MFA exchange in it. There’s a soybean field four blocks from my house, surrounded by subdivisions, banks and fast food. People here focus on organic, locally-grown produce. When the peach crop froze a couple of years ago, everybody knew about it. And yet people don’t notice if the weather affects soybeans and field corn. This spring, it rained, and rained, and rained, and rained, and the crops weren’t planted by the 4th of July. The local TV news interviewed my dad, but otherwise no one made note of the situation.

The whole point of the national Thanksgiving holiday was that it took place after the harvest was in–in thanks for the harvest. In our area this year, harvest was well shy of halfway done. Did anyone notice, except the farmers themselves? Not as best as I can tell.

I remember one Christmas when I was a kid, my mom’s family all came to our house. Dad was in the field that Christmas Day. He came in for Christmas dinner, and went right back out. That would have been some time in the 1980s. It was an eventful Christmas because that night there was a thunderstorm and the power went out, so my cousins and I went to bed by kerosene lantern. And the next day my great-uncle’s barn burned. At least, I think that was all the same year.

I bring it up because I’m really tired of the urban-centric mentality. We raise money for hurricane victims; we send food to earthquake-riddled areas of the world. We pray for those who lose homes to wildfire in California, those snowed in in Nor’easters. We pray for everyone except the agricultural community. Okay, so this isn’t a farming community. Okay, so soybeans and field corn aren’t a product we use directly. But how can people completely ignore their existence?

I don’t know who is responsible for the prayers of the faithful at our church; I think it’s probably several people. Once, I sent a note about this. The next week, they threw in one awkward, hasty prayer in the middle of ten long, poetic ones on issues of world importance. The next week, they went right back to ignoring it.

It’s not that farmers need to be on the prayer list every week. But during harvest, during planting–when the rain drowns fields, when the sun scorches them–if we can pray every week for the soldiers, is it so much to ask that we be aware enough of what goes on outside the city limits to pray for farmers when the situation is dire?

7 thoughts on “A Harvest Harangue

  1. Carrie Evans

    I think part of the problem is the disconnect that is caused by most of our population now living in cities. In the city, your food comes from the grocery, not the farm (or so they think). People in general don’t realize that for them to have food in the grocery stores and gas in their cars, someone needs to grow that food.

  2. I think folks are not aware of crops unless they are ones they directly purchase. We live in cotton country (northern AL) – this year the cotton got planted late (due to lots of rain) and was then harvested even later (due to more rain again). I guess I noticed because the cotton gin is on the way to the library and I noticed it wasn’t up and running like last year

  3. Could you try writing a petition in the form of your parish’s current prayers? Then it would simply be a matter of getting the prayer included rather than trying to make the person in charge understand the importance of praying for the agricultural community.

  4. motherhen68

    At our parish, which is in the middle of a fairly large, mid-sized city, we pray for the farmers and for good weather for harvest and during hurricane season, to be protected from crop and property damaging storms.

    I’m glad you wrote this post. When we say grace as a family before dinner, we end the prayer with “bless the cooks that prepare this meal and bless the farmers that grow this food”. Sometimes it’s canned goods grown by Conagra farms, but still, they are farmers none the less. Sometimes it is food out of my own garden and sometimes it’s the small farmers I buy from at the farmer’s market. Either way, they need our prayers too.

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