“I thank you, small farmer.”

In his April prayer intentions, Pope Francis expresses his appreciation and concern for small farmers:

“I thank you, small farmer. What you do is essential for the life of all. As a person, as a child of God, you deserve a decent life. But I wonder: how is your work compensated?”

In a short video clip, the Holy Father calls for a just compensation for small farmers’ invaluable work. The April prayer intention is also a call to people everywhere to fully recognize the contribution of farmers.

Rev. Frédéric Fornos S.J., international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, said this April prayer request of Pope Francis draws attention to the problems that arise when an economy dismisses or excludes the small farmer.

“While the profits of a few grow exponentially, the small farmer is exploited,” said Father Fornos. “Yet small farmers are essential, so Francis has invited all people of good will to mobilize with prayer and action on behalf of his intention ‘that small farmers may receive fair compensation for their precious work.’”

Read more about the April prayer intention at National Catholic Register.

Rallying for the Vocation of Farming

For regular visitors to Faith, Food & the Environment, you know that we began this project to examine how farmers and food producers are treated in the world food system. A look back on our initial symposium in St. Paul, Minn., makes this evident: we recognize farming as a calling, and ask agricultural leaders to better represent farming in this way rather than merely a business venture.

We also directly express our appreciation for farmers in the Introduction to our reflection on the Vocation of the Agricultural Leader (still a work in progress). We invite visitors to our site to take another look at that.

There are also the remarks of Cardinal Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace, when he presented last June soon after the release of Laudato Si’: Care for our Common Home. Cardinal Turkson reflected on the vocation of farming within the context of this encyclical by Pope Francis.

A story from the American countryside

On a more current note, and certainly of interest to those who are concerned about small and independent American farmers, there was a “going there” story aired on National Public Radio about what is happening in the countryside. In a series on Food, Farming and Health, this particular story was about a visit to a Nebraska family farm facing a shaky future.

Over the past several decades, many family farms have turned into very large family farms, or collections of farms, which turned into big businesses. You’re under an increasing amount of pressure these days if you’re a farmer who wants to stay small and independent

Vern Jantzen’s 300-acre farm in Nebraska is facing a shaky future because there is no guarantee the younger members of the family, like Vern’s two daughters, will want to stay to continue farm operations.

So for this one family’s farm, there is the temptation to leave and the struggle to stay.