Open any children’s picture book about farming, and you will likely read something along the lines of “Farmer Brown loves to drive his tractor all day long” and see picture of a plump man in bib overalls and a straw hat. Contrary to popular belief, farmers are not ignorant, grinning hillbillies who simply sit in their tractors and plow up their fields all day long.
Farming is a complex, high-risk, strategical business. The modern-day farm operation circulates hundreds of thousands of dollars in and out each year. It is nearly impossible for anyone to farm nowadays without taking on tremendous amounts of debt. The payments on loans taken out to pay the cash rent, buy the new bull, update planters, etc. often stretch out over several decades.
The crazy thing is, the farmer has no guarantee that he or she will be able make those payments and stay above the red. A crash of the grain markets, uninsured hail damage, a poor calf crop, unforeseen repair bills– any setbacks like these can easily wreck a “good” year. Unpredictability and volatility walk hand in hand with American agriculture.
So why would anyone in their right mind be willing to take such stressful risks? Who knows. Maybe we’re all insane.
The answer is faith. Sioux County, the most prosperous agricultural county in the state of Iowa, has mastered the art of applying faith to farming. Gary Den Herder, a third generation grain and livestock producer from Sioux Center, shared his beliefs in a recent interview:
“I don’t know how you can be a farmer without faith, because, to put that seed in the ground and to put it in God’s hands, that’s about all you can do. So I don’t know how you could farm and be disconnected from that because you have to put faith in that seed or that cow to produce a calf. In livestock too, a lot of it is in God’s hands. We do our best to keep them healthy and to keep them clean and warm and whatever we can do, but in the big picture it’s all in God’s hands.”
In all reality, farming can be an incredibly frustrating, disheartening business venture. During the farm crisis of the 1980s, alcohol abuse, divorce, and suicide rates rose at alarming rates. While the ag economy isn’t nearly as bleak today, the number crunching still causes many sleepless nights for some farm families.
That’s why it is critical for farmers to keep praying and trusting in God’s promises even through the lowest of lows. It’s also important to manage stress levels by keeping things in perspective. Most importantly, God calls us to have faith in Him.
Psalm 37:3-6 (NKJV) beautifully illustrates the results of having faith:
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
6 He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.