Kathleen Norris in her remarkable book, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, writes about rain in the Upper Midwest: “Until I moved to western South Dakota, I did not know about rain, that it could come too hard, too soft, too hot, too cold, too early, too late. That there could be too little at the right time, too much at the wrong time, and vice versa” (page 143).
This has been a year when across much of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area, the rains were either too early or too late, too much or too little. Combined with a weak market resulting from the trade war with China, our farmers are facing another farm crisis. As I drive across the Dakotas and Minnesota landscape, I see corn, bean, wheat, and hay crops looking normal, but the late planting season, or drought in northern North Dakota, has already taken its toll and yields will certainly be delayed, diminished, or devastated.
But, perhaps, the real cost is the emotional strain being born by our farmers and their families. Depression is a reality for many. Suicide rates are climbing. Feelings of failure and anxiety about the future are rampant. The economic base of many of our smaller farm communities is stressed. We are losing more farms and the fabric of many of our rural churches and towns.
This growing farm crisis is not always covered in the news. So, I urge you to raise awareness in your congregations. Learn more about what hurts our farmers. Reach out to your neighbors who farm, run grain elevators, own farm implement dealerships, or depend on farm income to sustain their local businesses and offer them your support and assistance. And, pray! Pray for our farm families, a return to normal market conditions, and a safe harvest.
O creator and faithful God,
you have promised strength for the weak,
rest for the laborers,
hope for the distressed.
Keep us from calling disaster your justice.
Help us, in good times and in bad times,
to trust your mercy and goodness.
Grant us light for the way, unfailing compassion;
grace for the trials, help from above;
faith in the future; safety in the harvest.
O creator and mighty God,
enfold our farm families in your loving arms
and help us all to continue in your promise.
Bishop Bruce R. Ough is resident bishop of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church.