South Dakota Church: Farmers, You’re Not Alone
By Carl Stagner
This has not been a good year for farmers. Actually, agricultural conditions have taken an economic and emotional toll on farmers for the past year-and-a-half, though much of the country is only beginning to take notice. While American routine often involves that indispensable weekly trip to the supermarket, requiring little to no thought of the origins of their convenient purchases, farmers bear the brunt of the material and mental cost. A May 29 article published in FarmWorld reported that the USDA’s assessments showed corn planting across the country was at its “slowest pace” since 1980. It’s no wonder, considering much of the country—from the Rocky Mountains to the Midwest and through the South—has been locked in a seemingly never-ending cycle of rain. With uncertain days upon farmers, as well as everyone connected to the agricultural industry, First Church of God in Marion, South Dakota, addressed the need early this month in the best way they knew how—prayer.
On the evening of Monday, June 3, First Church of God hosted an open-house-style prayer meeting specifically for the needs of famers and the agricultural community. Nikki Bauerle, associate pastor of First Church, from a family of farmers herself, spearheaded the event, following the lead of the Holy Spirit.
“In prayer, trying to determine how to best help in what feels like a helpless situation, we felt that opening the doors of the church as a safe place to come and cover our community in prayer was something we could easily do,” she explains. “Our farmers have faced a very difficult eighteen-plus months. Crop prices for our farmers have been lower lately, which makes the financial viability of farming very difficult. Along with prices, our farmers faced a very wet fall harvest season. Due to the moisture, some elected to put off fertilizing their land or were unable to complete the necessary items to care for the land before snow fell. Our winter was very cold and very long. It ended with two late-season, massive blizzards that set the planting season farther behind and created flooding in much of the area.”
Compounding the problem, field conditions only further deteriorated. “The rain started falling,” she continues. “For most of May, we had storms that produced one to two inches of rain at a time, almost every two to three days, for the entire month.”
And it’s not just about corn, soybeans, and winter wheat, among other staple crops. It’s about the animals, too. “Not only are farmers not able to get into their fields to work, but they have also faced difficulty in calving, as the mud is so deep they can’t reach their cattle. Roads are washed out, making fields and pastures inaccessible.”
Seventy-five percent of acres intended for corn have yet to be planted in the Marion area. Across the country, some 60 million acres of crops have yet to be planted. In Marion, home to about 800 residents, almost everyone is connected in some way to agriculture. It’s the same for the congregation of First Church of God.
“While many in our community commute to Sioux Falls, a great number work in the area at our grain elevator, fertilizer plant, ethanol plant, and farm machinery equipment dealers,” Nikki explains. “Others work as farm hands, assisting the farm families in our area. Often, retired farmers help with the planting and harvest seasons, as well. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single person in our community who isn’t part of a farm family themselves or isn’t closely connected to a farmer in some relationship.”
That’s why the announcement of a community prayer gathering struck a nerve. “With such a prolonged period of difficulty, this has begun to take an emotional toll,” Nikki explains. “As our farmers wrestle with the short growing period that we already struggle with locally, they carry the weight of knowing that what they plant, or what they are unable to plant, will have dire effects, not only on their own families, but on the businesses around them, as well. If they can’t get a crop in with the time necessary to grow it properly, and harvest it before the snow falls again, the trucking companies have nothing to haul, the cattle farmers have nothing for feed or silage, and the elevators and ethanol plants don’t have the product to use for their businesses.”
Farmers are notably strong individuals. Nikki says they’re more likely to be seen showing concern and care for their neighbor than asking for the help they need. Through the community prayer gathering at First Church, these farmers would know that they are not alone in their struggle. “We’re asking God to bless our farmers, their families, and our community,” Nikki explains. “We trust God’s timing and provision, so we are seeking his comfort, wisdom, and direction for our farmers. Our hope is that he would renew their strength, guide them in his will for their families, and provide for them during a very uncertain and difficult time.”
The prayer gathering, which lasted about an hour, drew attendees from their church, from other local churches, and from surrounding communities. Many expressed welcome for such a timely event. “To see the area we live in, united in prayer, was a powerful example of the greatness of God, and a testimony to the trust we have that God is present in this challenge, and that he will see us through it faithfully.”
Please continue to pray for our farmers and the agricultural community across the country. Thank you!
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.