October 7, 2022

By Jake Geis

Jake Geis is a parishioner at St. Martin Parish in Emery and ranches with his parents.

Faith and farming—an alliteration so timeless that it dabbles in being cliché. Yet the two must go hand-in-hand, because the only alternative explanation for placing your family’s livelihood at the whim of weather, world markets and waspy livestock is insanity. Seeing a distinct shortage of people planting fields in straightjackets, I’m guessing the first option is why we keep farming.

This makes farms and ranches great laboratories to explore the value of faith. In a culture suffering from turning its back to Jesus, taking a moment to observe how faith sustains the family farmer can provide insights for urban and rural folks alike.

Hopes are built on faith

“In toil you shall eat its yield” (Gen 3:17) can feel like an average day to the farmer. Sure, technology has drastically changed the way we produce food, but no computer program will change the need for rain or the erratic mind of the female bovine after calving. We move forward with each task with hope it will work out okay.

For example, in my mind at this moment, I hope the 30 percent chance of rain being called for on Wednesday gives us at least a half inch of moisture. I also hope the bred heifers we are selling Friday sell for more than it cost to raise them. Lastly, I hope all the cattle move through the open gate this afternoon into the correct pasture and don’t decide to go through the fence into the pasture I’m saving for later in the year. Especially calf number 607, because he insists on making our life difficult.

The truth is, I can hope all these things will happen, but there’s not a darn thing I can do to make sure they happen. That’s where faith steps in.

I have faith that God hears the prayers my family and I send his way every morning and evening. I have faith that even if it stays dry, if the heifers go for little to nothing, and if number 607 plows through the fence and disappears never to be seen again, God is still there for us.

This recognition by farmers and ranchers that we have to leave so much of our livelihood in God’s hands encourages faith, even in the face of adversity. Faith says that when things don’t go well, God did not forget or ignore us but let this thing happen so we could learn from it. It’s our choice if we use this experience to grow closer to him or walk away.

Agriculture is an incubator for faith, because at its core is a belief things will work out. After everything droughted out in 2012, the crop still went into the ground and the cattle still went out to pasture in 2013. And wouldn’t you know it, it rained in 2013, 2014 and 2015…but too much in 2019. In short, good times followed the bad, just as they have on the farm in every age since Adam started growing wheat. If God brought us through tough patches in the past to better things, we can have faith he’ll do it again.

Faith is not for farmers alone

The little steeples in small towns across our diocese are a testament to our agrarian forefather’s faith in God. But church steeples are not isolated to rural environments, and neither should faith be. Recent events have provoked feelings of despair in so many, and it’s not unwarranted. I think it’s safe to say the last year or so was one of the roughest the world has had in a while, and I’m not sure how we’ll come out the other side of it.

Calf number 607 with his mom, behaving for the moment as he poses for the camera. (Photo by Jake Geis)

But that doesn’t mean we give up on God. Rather, it’s time to grease the tractor and plant that corn right into the dust. Because for those with eyes to see, we can see the harvest is ripe, ready for the laborers who reap with joy and love.

If this seems farfetched, consider the number-one podcast on Apple at the start of 2021 was “The Bible in a Year.” With that many downloads, it’s evident folks are looking! People are hungry for God; they just need others they trust to guide them to him. We then must help them understand that God didn’t promise to take away all the oscillations in the soundtrack of our life, but he faithfully walks with us to the beat of every tune.

St. Isidore the farmer, pray for us that we may have a bountiful harvest in the fields and in the hearts of men. And pray for calf number 607. He’s still MIA and nuttier than a pet coon.