Rural Life Celebration’s hosts say sustainable farming practices foster good stewardship

Categories: Around the Diocese,Encyclical

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Craig and Joanie Murphy live 13 miles southwest of Morris, where they own an organic diversified crop and livestock operation. They are also this year’s hosts for the Diocese of St. Cloud’s annual Rural Life Celebration that begins with an outdoor Mass with Bishop Donald Kettler at 11 a.m. Aug. 23.human hand care with tree vector logo design, eco-friendly concept.

“There is something beautiful about worshiping outside in God’s creation,” Craig said recently, just as Pope Francis was preparing to release his ecology encyclical.

The Murphys were encouraged to host the celebration by members of their parish, Assumption in Morris, and by their pastor, Father Todd Schneider.

“The life of the town and of a lot of the diocese is shaped by the rural life experience here in Central Minnesota,” Father Schneider said. “This is an opportunity to give thanks to God for the blessing of being in a rural area and having the farmland help us reflect on not only the rhythms of nature but also the rhythms of our faith.

“The working of humans hands in the soil reminds one of the Eucharist,” he added. “We pray at each Mass that the ‘fruit of the earth and the work of human hands will become for us the bread of life.’ That is something that is in our hearts as we prepare for the rural life Mass.”

Craig grew up in the area but, after receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, he went to work in Nebraska. But, he said, the farm wooed him back.

This year, he planted soybeans, sunflowers, corn and wheat. There are a lot of factors involved when deciding what to plant. He follows the standards for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, which means that he must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity and using only approved substances.

“I like working with many crops just because of their diversity and because of what they can do for my rotation,” he said. “And I really like the challenge of using the practices for the organic program. You have to know what is acceptable and what is not, and I wanted to see if I could make it work with the guidelines they provide.”

Besides the challenge, Craig says there are economic, spiritual and stewardship reasons why he has chosen to use sustainable practices in his farming.

“Farming is not only the pleasure of growing food but also about how much new wealth is created,” he said. “I am amazed that with the raw materials we are working with how that generates wealth for the whole economy. You can say that about fish, lumber or minerals, too, and other natural resources.”

Craig is also involved with conservation practices and programs that allow him to be a good steward of the land.

“God gave this land for me to care for it, and my way of doing that is to avoid some of the unsafe practices out there,” he said. “I don’t like to work with things that have skulls and crossbones on them. Pesticide runoff and the issues that it creates concern me. I’m hoping that what I’m doing is practicing Catholic social teaching on the care of creation.”

The Murphys are excited for the opportunity to invite people to see what they are doing on their land at the Rural Life Celebration. Speaker Candace Simar, an award-winning Minnesota author and poet, will be there, along with a pulled pork picnic lunch and music by Mikko Cowdry.

Craig said, “We look forward to welcoming people to our farm and encourage everyone to come and worship in the great outdoors amidst God’s creation.”


Diocesan Rural Life Celebration  Care for God’s Creation
Sunday, August 23
* Outdoor Mass at 11 a.m. with Bishop Donald Kettler
* Pulled pork picnic lunch
* Musical entertainment
* Speaker – Candace Simar, an award-winning Minnesota author and poet

Hosted by Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Morris