ALLOUEZ — Even though it’s been a long winter, spring officially begins next week on March 20. The rural community of the Diocese of Green Bay will celebrate that new season with prayer, blessings and luncheons. The annual Rural Life Day events will take place March 26 and 27. The intention is to pray for successful spring plantings and an abundant harvest in fall. Both days will begin with 10:30 a.m. Mass.
Bishop Robert Morneau will be the celebrant at St. Edward, Mackville (N2926 State Road 47, Appleton), on Wednesday, March 26.
Bishop David Ricken, who was president of the National Rural Life Conference from 2001 to 2005, will be celebrant at St. Mary in Crivitz, 808 Henriette Ave., on Thursday, March 27.
Blessing of seeds, animals
Both events will include blessings of seeds, animals and farm equipment, prayers for a fruitful growing season and a noon dinner with a speaker. Collections taken at Masses go toward scholarships for students pursuing studies in fields supporting rural life. This year, $300 each was awarded to Calvin Winkel of Elkhart Lake and Brock Tetzlaff of De Pere.
Winkel, a senior at Kiel High School is a member of St. Ann, Holy Rosary, Ss. Peter and Paul, St. Anna, New Holstein/Kiel, where he volunteers and has been an altar server for eight years. He plans to pursue a degree in biological sciences-agricultural engineering at UW-Madison.
Tetzlaff belongs to St. Mary Parish in De Pere. He attends UW-Stevens Point and will graduate this spring with a degree in wildlife, agricultural and forest management. His pastor, Fr. Richard Getchel, noted that Tetzlaff was an altar serve for seven years before going to college and that “he helps with annual events at the church such as the pancake and porkie breakfast and the picnic.”
Rural Life Day speakers
The speakers for the Rural Life events this year are:
Bill Jartz, anchor at Action 2 News, WBAY-TV. He will be speak on March 26 at Mackville. His topic will be “Living the Good Life.” The Clintonville native has roots in hobby farming.
Mike Austin, who gives farm reports on WTAQ radio in Green Bay and WFRV-TV in Green Bay, will speak on March 27 at Crivitz. He is also co-host of Mornings with Mike and Matt on WTAQ. He’s been reporting on farm news for 37 years.
Jartz grew up on a small hobby farm in Clintonville: “25 acres, two tractors, 10 cows, chickens and pigs. We always helped our neighbors and they helped us. It’s a lesson you learn early on the farm: You’re never in this alone, you’re all in this together.”
Jartz and his wife live in Maribel and attend St. Mary Parish, Stark. In his free time, he enjoys helping neighbors on their farms. He also collects John Deere tractors and uses them to help farmers bale hay. He said he enjoys the hard physical labor.
“I enjoy going over to bale hay. … I couldn’t wait to get away from it (as a kid), now it’s a hobby,” Jartz said. “It makes you feel good, young again. Last summer, I blew out a knee and couldn’t help, so I just didn’t feel fulfilled.”
He noted that, after last August’s tornadoes, everyone in his Maribel community was out helping each other sort equipment, move cattle and protect harvested hay.
That concern for each other continues, he added.
“My neighbor just broke his foot last Monday, fixing a manure pump,” Jartz said. “So the neighbors are seeing what we can do to help. People in all northeast Wisconsin are that way, but it’s more prominent in rural community.”
Austin said that he feels the rural community needs to become more visible to those in cities.
“There are several challenges that farmers face, but one of the things I will talk about (at Crivitz) and feel may be their biggest challenge,” he told The Compass, “is the need for those in production agriculture to let consumers know what they do and why they do it on a daily basis.”
He said there is a lot of misinformation about farming, especially on social networks. “Too many people don’t understand modern agriculture and … farmers must be willing to tell their own story and share the facts of what it takes to produce a high quality, inexpensive food supply.”
Austin and his wife, Connie, are members of St. Bernard Parish in Green Bay. He also is a member of the Knights of Columbus, Council 10243. He noted that dairy prices are strong now and, while expected to fall later this year, he expects them to remain good.
Farm bill on people’s minds
He also noted that the new farm bill is on the minds of many.
The 2014 Farm Bill was signed into law on Feb. 7. Passage of the bill came just two days before the extension of the 2008 bill would have expired. The bill authorizes spending $956 billion over the next 10 years.
Austin believes a good aspect of the bill is that it “will provide producers with a new safety net. … Price supports are being replaced by margin protection insurance which producers can purchase. It is very similar to crop insurance that has been available and now expanded for crop producers.”
While he states that this will require a “bit of a learning curve,” Austin calls it “a good risk management tool” that should allow the dairy industry in Wisconsin to continue to grow. However, he also expressed concern that the farm bill does not have a “supply management provision,” which he said means that dairy farmers will need to learn to watch market price signals to determine production levels.
Most of the spending allotted for the 2014 Farm Bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will come from provisions for nutrition (also known as food stamps), crops insurance, commodities and conservation programs. An authorized $8 billion in cuts from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will mean $90 a month less in benefits to the average family, according to Catholic News Service and The New York Times.
Catholic Rural Life, based in Des Moines, “reluctantly” supported the farm bill but also cited the food stamp cuts and concerns that — if food prices drop — taxpayers will end up paying “a lot more on money farm subsidies than we did under the old program.”
Reservations were also expressed about the conservation aspects of the bill and its lack of payment limits to farm operations, which could favor large commercial farm operations.
That there was additional funding for beginning farms was seen as a plus.
“The bill also reinvests significant funding in beginning farmers, farmers markets and local food production,” wrote Robert Gronski, Catholic Rural Life policy coordinator, “all of which help farmers remain economically viable and assists them in remaining on their land.”
Gronski concluded his group’s policy stand by stating that, “We will not stop in working for real reform in farm and food policies. Much can be done at the local, state and regional levels. Much can change on the farm by the food choices we make at the store.”
Tickets for event meals
Tickets for the Green Bay Diocese’s Rural Life Day dinners on March 26 and 27 must be purchased in advance and are $8. Call the two parishes directly to order:
St. Mary at (715) 854-2501;
St. Edward at (920) 733-9266.
Dinner tickets will not be sold at the door. No tickets are needed to attend either Mass.