Jim Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life, recently visited parts of Texas for a series of workshops and presentations on the Vocation of the Agricultural Leader. One stop was San Angelo in central-west Texas and another was Victoria in the southeast.
“It is always a blessing to be out in the field meeting rural members and those interested in our work,” Ennis said.
“One of the comments we hear most often when presenting Vocation of the Agricultural Leader is that the acknowledgement of agriculture as a vocation is refreshing, new and welcomed, as this vocation is not often affirmed.”
One participant commented: “We’ve never heard this before, and I wish I would have known. I would’ve invited all of my neighbors–Catholic and non!”
During the workshops, participants are given an opportunity to break into small groups and discuss the challenges in their respective communities. There are two recurring challenges that are common to most rural communities throughout the U.S.:
- Youth are leaving, and either do not want or cannot return.
- Decline of the church as the center of the community.
In Texas, the participants expressed this additional challenge: the dynamic relationship between agriculture and oil. Many farmers have oil rigs on their land; this makes for a complicated and intertwined relationship, sometimes with opposing interests or agendas.
Ennis said Catholic Rural Life as an organization is addressing and promoting agriculture as a vocation or, more accurately, as a set of vocations within the many facets of agriculture and food production. This leads to acknowledging the importance of agricultural work all along the food chain from production to processing to distribution. Ennis believes this can inspire hope in the face of many challenges: economic, ecological, social and even political as farmers, workers, landowners, and agribusiness leaders strive to provide food for all and maintain the natural resource base.
The participants expressed this as well. Ennis came away feeling there is hope in the greater understanding of the importance of the vocation of agriculture.
“I believe there is greater acknowledgment by consumers in the essential work of farmers. There is greater recognition that farming still matters to people.”
If you would like to invite Jim Ennis to make a formal presentation or conduct a workshop on the Vocation of the Agricultural Leader, please email Jim@CatholicRuralLife.org. See the previous posting (below) for more details.