Respecting the Dignity of Farmers and Farmworkers
The Vocation of the Business Leader speaks of the importance of developing a spirituality of God’s presence throughout life, especially in one’s work situation. In agriculture especially, developing the spiritual posture of receptivity, of recognizing that one’s capacity to produce something of value is due to one’s prior status as a creature sustained by God seems especially fitting. Citing Pope Emeritus Benedict, the document affirms that the person, “comes in the profoundest sense to himself not through what he does but through what he accepts.” (¶67) Perhaps in no other occupation is dependence upon the Creator more pronounced than in that of agriculture. This is not mere pious rhetoric or the musings of a romantic, but a central insight into the vocation of farming and associate calling of the agricultural leader. Those who work so closely with creation work in the company of God.
Agricultural labor is often arduous and under constant threat of physical injuries. The church’s spiritual patrimony seems especially suited for this reality. Both the traditions of the Christian East and West have affirmed that faithful labor has been a path to sanctity. To all agricultural laborers she says: your work often unfolds in secret, but you are never alone. The loving eye of our heavenly Father looks upon you; Saint Joseph the patron of workers, Saints Isidore and Maria, and the communion of saints are among you; indeed, the whole Church enjoins you in your efforts when she prays at her liturgy the ancient prayer of blessing: “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you…” and the whole of the faithful responds: Blessed be God forever! The heroic efforts of you, agricultural workers, are not ignored. Instead, united with the prayers of the whole Church, your efforts to transform the world, to bring to fruition the Providence of the Father, are brought to a culmination in each Eucharistic sacrifice.
Agricultural leadership cannot ignore the exploitation of labor, lack of laws and protections for farmworkers, their poor living and working conditions, cases of pesticide poisonings, lack of access to health care, and this list could go on. Beyond farmworkers in the fields harvesting vegetables and fruits in their season, we call for equal attention to food processing workers in the beef, pork, poultry and seafood industries. Farmworkers and food process workers, they are often unseen and can be forgotten in the food chain, yet it is by their labor that we enjoy an abundant supply of fresh produce and packaged foods for our daily meals. This situation cries out for fairer treatment of farm and food workers, and so we must extend our respect for the labor and human dignity due to those most vulnerable in agricultural production.
[Continue to next section: Creating Sustainable Wealth while Caring for Creation]