LEXINGTON, Ill. — Easter is a time of renewal and hope and
fittingly parallels what farmers experience when they plant that seed in the
ground each spring.
Faith and farming have been interchangeable since the early
immigrants left their homeland and settled amid the tall prairie grass to begin
a new life with the first turn of the sod. That same faith is rooted deeply in
the soils generations later.
Farmers in the Lexington area shared their views about the
importance of faith, farmer and the Easter season during a get-together at the
Fellowship of Christian Farmers International headquarters.
“I grew up in a Christian home and understood the values of
living and working on the farm and enjoy that so much,” said Mark Freed.
“As I’ve grown older I’ve really come to realize it’s pretty
amazing if you think about it to lay a helpless seed in the ground in the
springtime, nurture it through the growing season and have the natural rainfall
we depend on in this part of the country, how the Lord can provide a crop
“It’s amazing. Without faith I can’t imagine being able to
pull something off like that.
“The farming aspect has been a big part of my life. More
importantly this time of year to me and as we come up on the Easter season is
the fact that we as Christians celebrate the empty tomb, and the hope that we
have in that is amazing and the thought that we have salvation through Christ in
“As we come up on the Easter season and we do celebrate the
empty tomb, it’s just humbling to think that there’s a guy who cares enough
about us to give us that type of salvation, so we really do celebrate that, and
as a believer, I feel like I have to rethink that everyday, but this is a
special time for Christians and that’s important to me.
“You think about that aspect that Christ was laid in the
tomb and then three days later emerges from the grave and is alive today, so
it’s really an amazing thought. It’s hard to grasp, but on the other hand, it’s
our hope and our faith, and we understand grace and mercy that God has granted
While many farmers have faith in God, it doesn’t mean they
don’t stress out “until we refocus our thinking,” said Warren Schaffer.
“When the two women went to the tomb, they were full of fear
and great joy and that’s how I face each season, with fear and great joy,” he
said. “There’s the joy of being able to work with my son, and then there’s the
fear and the stress of the weather is there, too.
“One of the big pluses of having faith is you can see how
God is working. You always have to look behind you to see it, and there’s
knowing there are blessings there and to be watching for them and to be
encouraged by them.
“I know one time I did a nice job of planting the field. The
weather then turned bad. I went back to look at my field after it came up and I
was grumbling and complaining and the thought struck me that this was from God
and my mood changed immediately.”
While farmers are working hard to earn a living and support
their family, Schaffer said those coins contain the words “In God We Trust,” so
that brings perspective, too.
“As we gather these coins in, we still need to trust in God,
and to be able to thank Him rather than curse Him is a huge role,” he
Dave Stutzman noted faith isn’t just limited to farming, but
all other aspects of life.
“Being a Christian and having faith in God that he is in
control of the weather, of everything that happens, is a comfort to me because
as long as we go out and do the best we can do, as long as we manage our part as
good as we can, then it’s out of our hands,” he said.
“It’s just like Job. He was very rich, had many animals and
cattle and was obviously a good manager and God blessed him, but then Satan
wanted to temp him so he took it all away.
“A year like this past one when it was so dry is a good
reminder that no matter how good of a manager we are, no matter how good we do
our part, God is in control and if he wants to bless us he will and if he wants
to take it away he will.
“To me, faith in farming is no different than faith in the
rest of life. I have faith that there is a God. I have faith he is in control of
the events that happen, whether it be weather, temperature or whatever, so at
the end of the day, as long as we’re prepared when it’s time to plant and we do
what we can and we harvest it when it’s time, other than that it’s out of our
“It’s a comfort because I don’t have to go home and beat
myself up about the weather because I can’t change it.”
Dennis Schlagel, FCFI executive director, grew up on a farm
in Iowa where he helped is father and was struck at a young age with the
importance of faith.
“I always was amazed at the special relationship, maybe
because you’re outside all of the time and you’re depending on the elements,
it’s kind of a special relationship that farmers have with the Lord because
there are so many circumstances,” he said.
“You can see storm clouds coming and you scramble to get
done whatever you’re doing and then all of a sudden the storm just goes around
you. There are circumstances that make farmers closer to seeing the Lord in
“Even fast-forward to today, when you really get into the
research on seeds and soil fertility, to me it just magnifies how amazing our
Creator is and how they’ve taken a seed and they figure out the traits of that
seed and then instead of physically crossing it in the field, they can do it in
a laboratory and create the traits.”
As FCFI executive director, Schlagel has had the opportunity
to visit agriculture labs to see how the research is conducted, “and it just
blows me away.”
“I’m not an organic chemist, but how guys are figuring out
the micronutrients. My studies at Iowa State University in agronomy of the NPK
engine are so antiquated. That was soil fertility, but now it is so much more
complex than that,” he said.
“But I think farmers have a closer fondness for appreciating
God’s grace because they’re working on it and depending on it all of the time.
That is very true over the generations.
“It does amaze me how we go into a growing season and every
growing season is a little different. When you say this will be a normal year,
well, what’s a normal year?
“This friendship that farmers have comparing notes,
comparing their experiences and then making management decisions as the year
goes on, there is a lot of prayer and there’s a lot of prayer in action that
happens in farming. That always is impressive to me, watching the guys survive a
The hard work and faith that those hearty souls carried when
they first turned the sod still resonates today.
“Originally, the maps for the whole Midwest were mislabeled
as the ‘Great American Desert’ and still they go out there and make farmland out
of it. It was a big risk,” Jerry Druhan, FCFI photographer and social media
coordinator, said of the faith the earlier pioneers had of settling on the new
“You realize, too, how fragile life is. You realize that we
are just passing through,” Freed said.
“We’re stewards of what God’s allowed us to manage and so it
really puts a whole new spin on it, too, when you realize you are working with
something that’s been built over generations through hard work, sweat and labor
and their faith and how the baton is important to be passed and you only pray
and hope that you can do the same and set the platform for the baton to be
“We talk about this prairie that we have and how they used
to drain the land to help it be productive and how those hard-working immigrants
came in and put in tile drainage by hand.”
The tile was installed in the late 1800s and early 1900s and
some original tile found in the Lexington area is at least five feet deep.
“That was put in by hand, not with a machine. That tile is
still viable today and you think about that and that step of faith. When they
finally did get some mechanical help, they floated a dredge up the Mackinaw
River to Anchor and dredged the river and made that land productive.
“There are literally thousands of acres in eastern McLean
County, and it goes into Ford and Livingston counties that were drained into the
Mackinaw River Watershed through that effort. It’s just amazing to see how those
folks came in here and they were true pioneers to do that.
“You talk about faith, that’s strong faith when they said
they could put a tile in the ground, drain the soil and grow crops and raise a
family. That was the idea of those guys back then — to get a plot of land, drain
it, raise and crop and raise a family, and it’s neat today to see those things
passed down the generations. What’s important is the faith is passed with
The stewardship of the land also is near and dear in the
hearts of today’s farmers as they carry on the soil’s fertility to the next
“For stewardship, I would say the only people who would milk
the land are those with a short-term goal in line,” Stutzman said. “If you’re
robbing the nutrients on the land, basically you are hurting your children and
your children’s children. Our outlook is we want the land to be better for our
children than what it was when we got it, so we’re trying to do just the
“We’re trying to do cover crops and other conservation
practices. We’re trying to build organic matter. We’re trying to leave it in
better shape then we found it and in knowing, too, that if we do that it will
return more to us.
“It’s a stewardship thing for everything. I believe
everything we have is not ours, it’s God’s. So anything that he gives us, it’s
our job is to be the best steward of it we can, whether that’s the land we farm
or the money we make from the land that we farm or whatever we have.”