Annual Rural Life Celebration set for Aug. 18 on St. Anthony family farm

Amanda Hartung always said she was never going to marry a farmer. But along came Randy Hartung in 1999 and swept her off her feet.

This year, the couple celebrates 20 years of marriage — and 20 years of farm life. Together, they are excited to be hosts for this year’s Catholic Charities’ Annual Rural Life Celebration. It will be held Aug. 18 at their farm in St. Anthony. “Our theme this year is ‘Care for God’s Creation: A legacy of faith!’” Amanda said.

“We are celebrating the past, present and future of rural life. Part of being a rural community means relying on faith because there are so many things we can’t control. That forces us to keep our faith close to us. Farmers are also a dying breed that we can’t let disappear.” 

While Amanda grew up on a small dairy farm just 10 miles from their current home, Randy lived on a small hobby farm near Holdingford. In 1998, he and his father formed a partnership and began Hartung Farms.

Randy and Amanda Hartung and their children (from left), Trevin, 18, Marissa, 8, Ethan, 10, and Abraham, 15. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

Today, Hartung Farms is a dairy and beef operation. Randy and Amanda live on the farmstead with their children, Trevin, 18, Abraham, 15, Ethan, 10 and Marissa, 8. The whole family is eager to share their home and land with people from far and near. Ethan said he is especially excited to serve at Mass with Bishop Donald Kettler.

Organizing the event has been a collaboration of the St. Anthony, St. Martin and Albany parish communities. It has brought the community closer together, Amanda said.

“It’s definitely a whole community event. So many people have stepped forward, from food to environment to music, to make it an event that is truly a community event,” she added.

The Hartungs want people to feel welcome and comfortable. Volunteers will be on hand to help with parking, including a “people wagon” and golf carts to bring people to the main area.

“I’m looking forward to having everyone out here and experiencing the farm,” Amanda said. “It’s so important to get our young people out here to see where their milk comes from. We plan to have our barns open so they can pet a calf and take a look at the dairy barn. We will have dairy princesses out here and a few other details in the works.”

Benedictine Father Edward Vebelun, pastor of the area parishes, said this celebration helps focus on the dignity of rural life.

“Like many of the regions of our diocese, we are rooted in agriculture,” Father Vebelun said. “Most of our elder generation lived on a family farm, and agriculture remains a fundamental part of the local economy. These are difficult times for farmers, as prices remain low from market forces and the [soybean] embargo [with China]. We feel the effects in every part of life. So, it is especially valuable now to point to the fundamental dignity and goodness of rural life.

“For those of us who grew up on family farms, it is easy to point to the values we gained from the life. A solid work ethic, love and care for God’s creation, the value of working together in solidarity, and the dignity of life are deeply ingrained in us,” he said.

Ethan Hartung, 10, tends cows on his family’s farm. (Dianne Towalski/The Central Minnesota Catholic)

The event begins with Mass at 10:30 a.m. Afterward, Joe Gill of KASM Radio in Albany will be the guest speaker. He, along with Bishop Kettler, will present certificates to 35 families who are receiving Catholic Century Farm Awards — a new addition to the rural life event. A meal — which includes grilled brat patties and hot dogs, beans, coleslaw and bars — and entertainment by the Slew Foot Family Band are also part of the day.

CATHOLIC CENTURY FARM AWARDS

The idea for recognizing Catholic century farms came from JoAnn Braegelman, Catholic Charities’ rural life coordinator for the western region of the diocese, after hearing about a similar award given by an Ohio diocese.

“My hope is that, by receiving the recognition as generational stewards of the land, these families feel affirmed in their faith, encouraged in their vocation and appreciated for the daily work they do to feed the world,” Braegelman said.

For those of us who grew up on family farms, it is easy to point to the values we gained from the life. A solid work ethic, love and care for God’s creation, the value of working together in solidarity, and the dignity of life are deeply ingrained in us.”

“Historically, many of our farm families have deep roots in the building of the churches throughout the diocese, often during harsh economic times and challenging field and weather conditions,” she added. “This truly speaks to the important role faith has played in their lives. It also demonstrates the integrity and resilience of farm families. These traits are still present in the Catholic farm families I see in my work as rural life coordinator. Now I see these farm families building the Church, spiritually. Caring for God’s creation is not just something they do; it is part of who they are.”

Kateri Mancini, director of social concerns at Catholic Charities, said she is delighted to be honoring so many farms for the first time.

“We recognize the incredible amount of dedication to the land and farming that it takes to do this work, let alone to continue it for multiple generations,” she said. “As Catholics, we believe in the important teaching of care for God’s creation, and we want to thank those farm families who have been living this out for so long.

“We also hear from farmers in our diocese that their faith in the God of the creation they are caring for helps them when doing so is not easy. We want to offer the Catholic Century Farm Awards as a way to honor both their commitment to agriculture and their faith.”

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2019 RURAL LIFE CELEBRATION

WHEN: Sunday, Aug. 18, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Mass begins at 10:30 a.m., followed by guest speaker Joe Gill, Catholic Century Farm Awards,
lunch and entertainment by Slew Foot Family Band

WHERE: Randy and Amanda Hartung Farm, 40607 County Rd. 153, Freeport. Handicapped parking is available and most areas are handicapped-accessible.

Special guest speaker Joe Gill, farm director and traffic manager for KASM radio in Albany

Joe Gill, guest speaker, KASM radio

Joe has worked with KASM since 1999. He is a current member of the Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Minnesota Pork Producers Association and Minnesota Farm Bureau. As farm director, Joe covers local, statewide and nationwide agricultural events and conferences. He is a member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. Joe is married with two children. Proud of his rural community, he will share the beauty of rural life and the important place that farming holds.

Along with Bishop Donald Kettler, Joe will also be presenting the first-ever Diocese of St. Cloud Catholic Century Farm Awards, sponsored by Catholic Charities; 35 farm families will be receiving the award this year.

CENTURY FARMS

Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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