Friday, July 17, 2009

The Grandmother and Her Farming Son

In the Catholic Church of Korea this Sunday is Farmer's Day. One of the priests in the diocese has given us a modern day parable to understand the problems of farmers.

Grandmother Anna lives in the country doing her farming. In recent years because of her age she is often sick and in need of attention from her youngest son and daughter-in- law. In the past she was not considerate of her younger son ; she is now sorry for neglecting him and comparing him with her older son.

Anna was the mother of two sons. Her husband died a few years ago and the oldest son lives in Seoul. From a very early age the older son showed signs of being very intelligent and was the pride and joy of the whole family. It was financially difficult sending him to college; they sold part of their land to send him to the very best schools. He didn't disappoint, and now has a responsible job in a big company. The members of the community in which they live praised his parents for raising such a son which helped them forget their difficulties.

The oldest son was showered with praise and expectations while the youngest son not very good in his studies, listened to constant reprimands and was ignored. He barely finished high school and ended up helping his father on the farm. He married a farm girl and took over the farm.

Anna in recent years is beginning to see her younger son with different eyes. He is working the farm; he and the daughter- in- law are taking care of her for which she is most thankful. The older son succeeded in making a place for himself in society which is great but she wonders what would have happened to her without her younger son. The youngest son is taking care of her, farming the ancestral land , and taking care of the homestead, what a great blessing. The oldest son and daughter-in-law pay them a visit a couple of times a year. They are not able to make the trip often and even if they if it were possible the daughter in law, who is not used to difficult work , would not be able to work the farm and take care of the mother.

I can't help but recall the words of our Lord: the stone that was rejected has now become the corner stone of the building. The youngest son who was of no use was cast to the side but now is the pillar of the family and the farm. In our society those who are working to give us daily necessities ,workers and farmers are on the margins of our society...

The oldest son of Anna who had become a success in life is precious but so is the youngest son . In our society we need the politicians, the teachers, the entrepreneurs, the artists etc. but we also need those who give us the produce from the farms. To entrust the food that we need to imports from the outside is a great problem.

We are letting the farmers and the farms go down the drain. Outside of rice almost all of our food is coming from overseas. In the not too distant future when even the rice will come from overseas the farming section of our society will disappear. Already the desire to live on the farm is disappearing . It is our job to help the farms by making the effort to buy our farm products.

The Bishop of Incheon in his message for Farmer's Day stressed the need for all of us to support the buying of Korean farm products by those in the City. Even if it is more expensive it is the way we can show our solidarity with those on the farm and our fraternal love for our brothers and sisters.

The editorial in the Catholic Paper mentioned that in Korea we supply only 25% of the food that we eat. The population of our farms is only 6.6% of the total and getting old, it is difficult to find any young people left on the farm. The effort is being made to establish direct links to the farming communities to buy the products of the farms. It has been operative for over 14 years but we see little improvement over the years. The attempt is being made to begin to have trust in our farming communities and see if we can turn this around.