[Jesus] also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.—Mark 4:26–27
One April morning about 20 years ago—early in my pastoral ministry—a 70-something wheat farmer in my congregation came into my office, stating that he had a question for me. For the first time in his 50 years of farming he had decided to plant corn that spring. It had been a couple of weeks, but no shoots of corn had so far emerged from the soil. Knowing that I had grown up on a Missouri farm that grew corn among its crops, he asked whether he should wait a bit or plow and replant his corn. Because I knew the soil temperature was not yet warm enough to sprout corn, I encouraged him to wait at least a couple of weeks and see what happened. About two weeks later he was back in my office, grinning from ear to ear. Corn plants were emerging from the soil.
I grew up hearing that farmers are gamblers. The farmer gambles that the seeds planted will sprout. The farmer then gambles that the plants will receive the right amounts of rain and sun to grow and produce a plentiful harvest of grain, fruit or vegetables. The farmer gambles that there will be good weather in which to harvest the produce that has been grown. The farmer gambles that the food grown will not spoil before it reaches those who will consume it. And finally, the farmer gambles that a good price will be paid for the produce that is sold.
This year the Presbyterian Church is observing International Day of Farmers’ Struggles on April 17. In our ever-more-urbanized and suburbanized American culture this is a day to learn more about the challenges faced by farmers not only in the United States, but also and especially around the globe. According to the Joining Hands Network of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, “farmers are the ones who feed the planet, but surprisingly, they are also amongst the poorest and hungriest people in the world.”
I invite you to co-missionally join with me in learning more about farmers’ struggles and how you can support and advocate in their behalf using the following resources:
- Read more and download A Preliminary Report on Seeds & Seed Practices across the United Statesproduced by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program and partner organizations.
- Actions to Take for Seed Freedom
- The untold life of the 21st-century farmer by Andrew Kang Bartlett
- Reflection on Seeds by activist Laura Valencia
- Farmer Suicides in India by Vandana Shiva
- Seeds of Death
- Seeds of Freedom
- The World According to Monsanto
- The Jakarta Call- A new documentary from Via Campesina about seeds. See the trailer here.