Family Stories

Each year I spend Christmas Eve on the family farm where my grand-children are fifth generation family farmers, and they take an active part in the farm work.  They are among less that one-half of one per cent of children growing up in the United States today.  As I think about their futures, I wonder if when they sit down in years to come to share family stories on Christmas Eve, will they be describing the rebirth of family farming here in the United States, the growth in support for organic sustainable farming, the increasing role of family farms globally in eradicating hunger and poverty?  Will there be more children in the United States growing up on a family farm?  Will my grandchildren still be family farmers?

I grew up in the 1950s and early 1960s in rural Minnesota.  The vast majority of my relatives on both my maternal and paternal sides of the family were dairy farmers whose cattle provided the beef,  milk and cream (we made our own butter and cottage cheese). All the farms I knew also had enough chickens to provide eggs for meals and baking, and an occasional Sunday fried chicken dinner as well as pigs to provide the pork roast, pork chops, sausage, ham and bacon which were smoked in the old smoke house at my grandparents farm, the Evarts Farm. The lard was rendered on pig butchering day for all our baking and frying needs.

There was no such thing as “a garden.”  We had the spring, early summer, summer, fall, and late fall gardens which provided all the fruits and vegetables we needed to can, make jam or jelly or sauce or put in the root cellar for our winter meals.  We went to the store in town for spices, sugar, salt, flour and yeast.  Everything else came from the farm!  The farm truly sustained all of us.

“According to the Census of Agriculture,” a United States Department of Agriculture report revealed, “the number of U.S. farms fell sharply until the early 1970s after peaking at 6.8 million in 1935…By 2002, about 2.1 million farms remained.”

In 2013 people living on family farms comprise less than one per-cent of the population in the United States.  My granddaughter, who is now a first year college student, and her classmates were asked by their fifth grade teacher to write a paper describing whether it was better to grow up in town or in the country.  She wrote her paper saying neither, that it was better to grow up on the farm!  Early in the New Millennium we had already begun to lose the language of farm, to say nothing of the family farm.

November 22, 2013, the United Nations announced the International Year of Family Farming (2014). The news release states clearly that “these farms produce the food that feeds billions of people, adding that in many developing countries, family farms represent up to 80 per cent of all farm holdings.”

May we join with the United Nations in 2014 in celebrating and supporting existing family farms and work for the rebirth of family farming globally in eradicating poverty and hunger.

Posted by: Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

International Migrants Day

According to documents handed down through the generations, my first ancestor to arrive in North America landed in 1631 from Wales and took the Oath of a Free Man in 1652; the next wave migrated to the United States of America in the mid-1800s from Norway, Switzerland and Germany. As we all know migration is as old as time.  People, animals, birds, insects, the fish at sea migrate  from one on place to another for a myriad of reasons.  My ancestors were dairy farmers, cheese makers and homemakers, proud of their family and their homelands.  They came here seeking the carry on those traditions and skills seeking the best possible life in this new land. They were not forced out by famine, war, genocide or global warming.

“To mark International Migrants Day, the United Nations family is calling on people and Governments everywhere to reject xenophobia and embrace migration as a key enabler for equitable, inclusive and sustainable social and economic development.”

Today we can accept the invitation from the United Nations by reading the UN International Migrants statement, and through this lens make a still deeper commitment to the human rights and dignity of all people globally.

“…migration as a key enabler for equitable, inclusive and sustainable social and economic development.” 

Posted by:  Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

World Leaders Remember Nobel Peace Prize Winner Nelson Mandela

During this busy week of Advent, so much has happened, as it always does, changing the world, life on this planet one person, one statement, one action at a time.  I woke very early this morning and found it almost beyond comprehension that the Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela happened almost a week ago and his funeral will be held tomorrow.  I decided that what I need most before rising up and leaping into the day, was to savor some of the quotes from around the world that honor the gifts we know we have received from Nelson Mandela and acknowledge that there are many more yet to be revealed.  This morning I chose these to share:

President of the United States, Barack Obama

“Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done,”

“South Africa shows us that is true. South Africa shows us we can change. We can choose to live in a world defined not by our differences but by our common hopes. We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.”

“There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.”

South African president Jacob Zuma

“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves and in him we saw so much of ourselves. Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together and it is together that we will bid him farewell”

Cuba’s president Raúl Castro

“Let us pay tribute to Nelson Mandela: The ultimate symbol of dignity and unwavering dedication to the revolutionary struggle, to freedom and justice, a prophet of unity, peace and reconciliation.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“I won’t speak until there is pin drop silence. You must show the world you are disciplined. I want to hear a pin drop … We promise to God we will follow the example of Nelson Mandela”

UN secretary-general Ban Ki Mooon

“Mandela was more than one of the greatest pillars of our time. He was one of our greatest teachers. He taught by example. He sacrificed so much … for freedom and equality, for democracy and justice.”

Thanduxolo Mandela

“To him, life was all about service to others. He mingled with kings, queens and presidents … At the core, he was a man of the people”

Andrew Mlangeni, a former prisoner on Robben Island with Mandela

“Madiba is looking down on us. There is no doubt he is smiling and he watches his beloved country, men and women, unite to celebrate his life and legacy”

Former US president Bill Clinton

“History will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion of human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation.”

Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela and thank you for making us better people, providing countless examples of how this world can be made more humane through the acts of standing for the human dignity of each person, freedom, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Posted by:  Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

UN officials urge concerted action to eradicate modern forms of slavery

The Anti Human Trafficking Working Group of the Justice Commission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates of the St. Paul Province continues their work of educating, advocating and taking action to the trafficking of humans.

October 29, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Congregational leaders joined with ECPAT-USA to prevent the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Here in St. Paul, as part of the Carondelet Congregation and the Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph we are encouraged by the statement the United Nations officials made on December 2, 2013 urging a concerted effort to eradicate modern forms of slavery.

On  International Day for the Abolition of Slavery 2013 top United Nations officials marked the day with a call for concerted action to eradicate the contemporary forms of this heinous practice.  The news article states in part, the International Day marks the date in 1949 of the adoption by the General Assembly of the UN Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. The focus of the day is on eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, such as trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, forced marriage and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.

The work begun by the United Nations in 1949 intensifies globally in 2013.

Posted by:  Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate