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Fred Lukens, a farmer near Aneta, N.D. was a fill-in preacher at Sundahl Lutheran church on Sunday, June 9, 2019. (Katie Pinke/ Agweek)

The Pinke Post: Keeping the faith in the future of farming

Last Sunday, my dad, fondly called "Farmer Fred", was in the pulpit of Sundahl Lutheran church in Aneta, N.D., to be a fill-in preacher. My family and I sat in two pews near the front to listen and learn.

Farmer Fred is a Christian who lives out what he preaches in his daily profession and life choices. He is a gifted speaker and holds a graduate degree in communications.

While I love hearing my dad's speaking and preaching, I think many farmers and ranchers could fill local pulpits and preach on an array of topics and experiences, tying in scriptures, faith and the commitment they give to their animals, crops, fields, and the trust they have in agriculture providing for not only them, but for our communities, state, country and world.

Farmers and ranchers don't have to only fill church pulpits to preach. They live out their own sermons and lessons on farms and ranches. You can learn a lot about what faith means outside of church walls from observing farmers, ranchers and all who work in agriculture.

Do you know of any other profession that puts their complete faith and livelihoods into the potential and possibilities of a seed or an animal, often impacted by the weather? The seed has potential to bring forth a bounty, to richly bless the farmer, to reward the work it takes to grow the seed and to feed others.

The seed also has the potential to never get planted based on weather conditions like we're seeing this season in parts of the country. The animal can birth another animal, increasing a herd, giving the rancher more to market, more to sell, creating a protein-rich food for others to buy and consume. The animal can also die or its offspring die and never allow the rancher to see a profit from an animal they've fed, watered and cared for as their own.

While so much of our world is changing, evolving and growing, it is faith, family, and farming that remains a constant in my life and have for generations in my family. Faith and family farms are in your life also but maybe you haven't thought of it if you're a few generations removed from a farm like most Americans are.

Do you go to the grocery store with complete faith you will be able to purchase food to feed yourself, your spouse and/or your family? Most of us don't think of not being able to easily access a wide variety of food choices. Yes, a majority of us have complete faith in our food system. While we might not be growing the majority of our own food as our ancestors did, we rely on others to provide it to us and have faith it will be there to nourish our bodies. Of the 2.2 million American farms, 96% are family-owned and operated, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service's Census of Agriculture. We must rely on those family farmers and put our faith in them and the food they grow and produce.

We also can put our faith in the agribusinesses, researchers, processors, food companies and packaging and transportation systems that help deliver us the open access and choices we have in food.

Even if you're not farming or ranching, you have a vested interest in the faith of farmers. What if all of the farmers this year struggling to get a crop in with volatile weather conditions decide to give up their profession and not put a crop in next year? Aside from the chaos it would create, the first thing I think of is expensive food at grocery stores. The second thing I think of is hungry people who can't afford expensive food and people far from us who wouldn't have food ever reach them because there simply wouldn't be enough.

What if there aren't enough farmers to grow the food our global population demands? There are so many what if's neither you or I can answer today. We don't know what the future holds for agriculture, for farmers or ranchers or for our food system. We can't see tomorrow. What I know is that I have faith in the American farmer and rancher, the farmer and rancher who puts his and her faith in crops, animals, weather and a trusted system to provide and deliver us access to affordable, safe food.

My dad's preaching last Sunday rooted my faith a little deeper in American agriculture. Thank you, Dad. And thank you to all farmers and ranchers for your faith and example.

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