A challenging harvest: Helping farmers face the effects of the drought Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Sep. 27, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

This is the time of year when we usually see farmers out in the fields harvesting their crops. It’s usually a time of plenty, with pumpkins, squash, and other produce filling the roadside markets.

However, this year many farmers in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the Midwest are facing tough times due to the effects of the drought. University of Wisconsin Extension officials reported that the corn crop was hit the hardest, while alfalfa is down from an average of five tons a year to just one to two tons an acre. Soybeans seem to have survived better, thanks to August rains.

A Prayer in Autumn for Country Living
Good and generous Lord, You have once more brought the year full circle through planting and growing and ripening to harvest time, and autumn.
We thank You for the sun and the wind, the rain and the dew, the minerals of the earth and all the plants that grow, and all the beasts and birds of farm and field. We marvel at Your wonderful ways of bringing food from the earth for man’s good.
Dear God, help us to use Your rich gifts as You want us to. Teach us to share them with our neighbor when he is in need. Make us see, in the marvelous succession of seasons, and in the growth and ripening of our crops, the merciful, generous hand of Your divine providence.
Help us to realize, too, that if we keep Your commandments and live according to the inspirations of Your grace, we shall also reap a plentiful harvest in the autumn of our lifetimes: a harvest that we will be able to enjoy for ever and ever, where no rust can destroy, nor blight spoil any least part of it.

Problems throughout the Midwest

In our neighboring state of Minnesota, 84 percent of the landscape was considered abnormally dry or worse as of September 13, according to the Minnesota Climatology Working Group.

In Iowa, the farm yields are reported as “all over the board,” with farmers reporting yields ranging from zero to 170 bushels per acre, often in the same field.

Farmers throughout the Midwest are also worried about finding enough feed for cattle on dry pastures this winter. Some farmers will have to buy feed for their cattle.

Crop insurance may help some farmers. Others may plant emergency crops in the fall to harvest in May to feed their cattle.

How we can help

What can we do to help our farmers? Of course, one way is to buy locally-grown foods at farmers’ markets. I’ve found that the tomatoes, beans, beets, and other vegetables bought at farmers’ markets taste so much better than anything bought at a store — even those advertised as “home grown” just can’t beat the farmers’ market produce.

We can also support organizations that are working for fair prices and justice for our agricultural workers. One of these is the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC). Headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, the organization is comprised of dedicated bishops, laity, and religious who are joined in a common effort to serve the rural church, rural people, and their communities.

The NCRLC Web site ( has lots of information on topics such as food and justice, the ethics of eating, and spiritual resources. Individuals can become members, or parishes and organizations can join the NCRLC.  Members support NCRLC’s mission to apply the teachings of the Church to the care of family farms, rural communities, and the stewardship of Creation.

In Wisconsin, Family Farm Defenders (FFD) works to “create a farmer-controlled and consumer-oriented food and fiber system, based upon democratically controlled institutions that empower farmers to speak for and respect themselves in their quest for social and economic justice.”

FFD has worked to create opportunities for farmers to join together in new cooperative marketing endeavors and to bridge the socioeconomic gap that often exists between rural and urban communities. Find more information on the FFD Web site (

Perhaps the most important thing we can do is pray for our farmers. The NCRLC Web site provides a number of prayers, including a novena to St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers. I’ve included one of the prayers from the NCRLC Rural Life Prayer Book as one suggested prayer.

Let us all pray that God will bless our farmers, that the effects of the drought will not be long-lasting, and that farmers will recover with the help of the communities they serve.