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?