BRILLION – Although it's seldom thought of in that way, cows bring people together in several ways, “The Dairy Coach” Tom Wall told attendees at the Green Bay Catholic diocese's annual Rural Life Days held in late March here and in Bear Creek.
“You encounter people because of cows,” Wall pointed out. In particular, he cited how dairy farmers connect with many vendors and sales people for services in caring for their cows and how employment of Hispanics on dairy farms is serving to bring people of two cultures together.
Wall has worked with dairy farmers as a consultant for 16 years, helping them to establish good relations with their Hispanic employees in many cases. His Rural Life Day presentation was titled “Faith, Family, Farming – What's Your Story?”
Farming a privilege
In recent years, Wall has been expanding from his trademarked appellation as “The Dairy Coach” to give attention to his Catholic faith and to how family life fits with both faith and farming. He assures farmers that “where you are is where you're supposed to be” and encourages them to think of farming as a ministry.
As Wall sees it, the goal of knowing, loving, and serving God is also “the story of the American dairy farm. Be a witness to that.” On a related point, he proclaims that “the dairy industry is built on motherhood” – the caretaking of cows that converts into taking care of the nutritional needs of humans.
What Wall fears is that many farmers are not telling the story of how they live and how faith and family are linked. Talk about that “and how you work every day” whenever there is an opportunity to do so, he advised.
Explain how having 1 percent of the population provide the food for the other 99 percent is “a pressure” that farmers should consider “a privilege,” Wall stated. He asked them to realize that they are “the ultimate stewards of our time – for land, animals, and people.”
Farmers need to ask themselves how they are living in the context of faith, family, and farming, Wall suggested. He noted that farming “takes a lot of time” but added that family and faith must not be neglected. Be an example of and witness to “your faith,” he exhorted his audience.
In some cases, farm families are dealing with tension's that are rooted in the farm's history, Wall observed. He called on them “to let go of the past” and, as is stated in prayers, to engage in forgiveness instead.
Focusing on faith
Motivated by the title of his presentation, Wall shared how he had been applying it to his own life. At gatherings of his Catholic family, he noticed that relatives did not even know the words of the basic prayers of their faith.
Based on his fundamental belief that humans are made to know, love, and serve God and how that belief doesn't seem to command much attention, Wall wondered if “the church is on a decline now.” Whatever is accurate about that concern, he has faith in the fact that the Catholic church started with 12 men some 2,000 years ago and survives today.
Reacting to what he was seeing among his relatives on the challenge of sharing and growing one's faith in the next generation, and not to exclude farmers, Wall has stepped beyond the role of “dairy coach.”
In February of this year, Wall was the organizer of a “Faith Family Farming Interfaith Conference” held in Green Bay. It appealed to farmers and agri-business professionals. At the moment, he is planning another similar conference.
Wall began delving into his new aspect of coaching a few years ago with the creation of a series of illustrated prayer books. Intended for Catholic families, they are designed for grandparents and parents to share the teachings and traditions of the church with today's younger generation.
Catholic Football Camp
As his newest venture, Wall is working with the St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere and the Catholic Athletes for Christ to launch a first-ever summer Catholic football camp for high school athletes. It will be called the “Our Lady of Victory Football Camp.”
Whatever the goal or activity, don't have fear about succeeding on it, Wall emphasizes. He promises that there is “power in prayer” for achieving success. He refers to prayer as “a team sport.”
Through what he believes can be accomplished with the help of prayer, Wall proposes the idea of looking at one's life as constituting the “heaven” that's often portrayed as “a place” instead.