I interrupt normal posting related to Wendell Berry in order to share with you this news from my friend Charlie Langton about a farm family in need. Many thanks for whatever you can do ... Br. Tom
Mourning One Great Soul, Helping Another
On Saturday, February 26, over 200 family members and friends gathered in Lansing, Iowa, to pay their last respects to Bill Welsh, a man of great personal courage and a true Iowa agricultural leader.
Back in the early 1980s, when I first met Bill, his wife Essie, and their large welcoming family, agricultural Extension Service reps were still insisting that chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides did not percolate into the ground water, small family farms were collapsing at an alarming rate, distraught farmers were blaming the farm crisis on the Federal Reserve and the Jews, and there were no organic standards and no viable local organic processors and markets. Bill and his sons Greg and Gary had just converted their farm to organic production and resolutely began speaking truth to power, helping disenfranchised farm families, combating fear-based prejudice, lobbying for clear, fair standards, assisting in organic conversions, and working to establish local organic processors. The panels they now would be welcomed to sit on back then would dismiss and condescend to them. I was fortunate to spend two and a half years accompanying them during the early days of that journey, learning from them and with them, and it is a time I will never forget and always cherish.
Frankly, much of it was uncharted territory for them, too, and they did not always know what they were doing, but the possibility of making a mistake or two did not deter them from their goals: That takes a special kind of greatness. Always the concepts of healthy land, healthy food, and healthy people guided them. Eventually Bill would serve on the National Organic Standards Board and be instrumental in the founding and success of the Organic Prairie farmers’ cooperative, but that would have been hard to imagine during those uncertain early times. Essie was a rock for the entire family then, though certainly she was as uncertain as any of them about what they were taking on, and always at Bill’s side was his son Greg, an eloquent, energetic, but modest partner, whether they were giving an organic farm tour, advocating for farmers whose homes and livelihoods were in jeopardy, challenging current farming practices, or organizing to solve organic marketing challenges.
At Bill’s funeral the whole Welsh family mourned their guiding light, including Greg, standing strong despite having just finished weeks of daily radiation treatments for an inoperable brain tumor, still Bill’s modest and eloquent partner, still focused and determined, but now a loving husband himself, with two beautiful young children. As if grieving for his beloved father were not enough, the challenges Greg and his young family now face are hard to imagine as he continues his battle with cancer for the sake of those he loves.
There will be a benefit for Greg on May 14 in Viroqua, Wisconsin. For more information on the benefit, go to https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=158652597522259 . One fun way to contribute is to look for one-dollar bills with a “G” in the circle on the left hand side—we’re calling them “G-Bucks”—”G” for Greg, of course. You can give them to me when you see me, or drop them off at the Oneota Community Food Co-op, or just bring them to the benefit. Hopefully we’ll have a mountain of them to present to Greg and Faye in mid-May. But of course feel free to donate anything you can, in any denomination available. You can send contributions other than G-Bucks to:
Greg Welsh Benefit Fund
114 State Highway 171
Gays Mills, WI 54631