One of Dexter’s longest-standing congregations carved out some time Sunday morning to recognize and appreciate local farmers and the agricultural community at large with a special service at St. Andrew’s United Church of Christ.
Dexter’s is a rich farming heritage going back to the founding days of the town when Judge Samuel Dexter was leading the building of our community with his bare hands and the bare hands of others.
It’s something that’s worth highlighting, since farmers and the agricultural life are still an important part of the Dexter community even today.
“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how,” St. Andrew’s Pastor Grant Speece preached to his congregation, with rain beginning to pitter-patter on the church’s roof as those particular words were shared.
St. Andrews itself is deeply rooted in farming with a number of families still working the land as their families have for generations. Dexter historian and St. Andrew’s church member, Elaine Owsley, explains how the German farmers that settled the area established and built St. Andrew’s a hundred and thirty three years ago.
“Some of our families are seventh generation farmers,” she said. The service included a reading of Paul Harvey’s “God Made a Farmer,” in which Harvey muses that on the eighth day God created farmers be the Earth’s caretakers.
St. Andrew’s member Bruce Breuninger owns an 800-acre dairy farm on the corner of Parker and Marshall. The Breuninger Dairy Farm was established in 1909 by Bruce’s great-grandfather and now has 500 head of cattle, 240 of which are milked twice a day.
Over cake and coffee at the reception following church service, Bruce relayed how farming was in the midst of a significant revolution because of developing technology. The cows now have sensors in their ears that relay information to the Netherlands where it is processed and then sent back to an app on Bruce’s phone telling him the overall health of the cow and if it’s ready for breeding.
A nutritionist visits every other week and checks the health of the herd logging the information into a spreadsheet that is used to specifically customize feed for the optimal health of the herd. This year, Bruce is looking to add a drone to his barn which will be used to check crop conditions in a fraction of the time it would take to do it manually.
Those in attendance appreciated sharing or hearing about how the work and lives of farmers has changed over the years, while still remaining at its core honest, hard work to literally put food on all of our tables.
Owsley explained that this was the first Farmer Recognition Sunday at St. Andrew’s, which the congregation plans on making an annual event that will on day be on every farmer’s calendar, as well as the calendars of all of their friends, family, and the numerous people who rely on their expert hard work — all of us, really.
The church has honored different fields of service and with harvest time coming, they thought it was time to recognize and appreciate the farming community.
She is quick to point out that farming provides more than just the food of life. Most of the property taxes paid in the area to support public works and education come from farmers.
“St. Andrew’s has a number of farm families … it is remarkable to me how our church was founded by farmers, and after 133 years it is still sustained by farmers,” she said proudly.
More than just honoring farmers, Farm Recognition day is about seeing and hearing farmers talking about their lives and tell their stories in a way that keeps appreciation of the farming tradition alive and well.
The service closed by singing “Bringing in the Sheaves.” In their own way, St Andrew’s looked to honor the rich heritage that first founded and since then sustained this community.
When Breuninger was asked why he stayed with the family farm when so many others haven’t, he shrugged and answered, “I just like doing it,” as if farming is something that anyone would love doing if they tried it, and maybe it is.
Sean Dalton contributed to this report.