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Harvest Mass celebrates a richer bounty

Harvest Mass celebrates a richer bounty
Dale and Marlys Hinckley stand in one of the barns on Hinckley Holsteins near Chatfield. Those attending the annual Harvest Mass of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona on Sunday can see the barn and other facilities in the large operation they run with their two sons.

CHATFIELD — A Harvest Mass on Sunday will celebrate rural life and thank God for the bounty of the land, something hosts Dale and Marlys Hinckley say they do throughout the year in ways non-farmers might never see.

The 22nd annual Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona Mass, with dinner and entertainment to follow, brings farmers and city people together so non-farmers can learn how farmers milk cows and grow crops. It is held in mid-August to commemorate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and also because farmers are too busy around the fall harvest.

The Hinckleys live about three miles east of Chatfield on a dairy/cash crop farm where their two sons, Matt and Adam, farm with them. One daughter, Paula Bauer of Hayfield, sells agricultural plastic while another, Holly Thompson, farms near Plainview.

The idea of giving thanks cropped up repeatedly as Dale and Marlys Hinckley talked about farms and the Mass.

Male farmers don't show emotions, but "deep down, we are thankful for what we get," Dale said. "People should celebrate that we have a bountiful harvest here, that there is plenty for people to eat … If they are not willing to celebrate the harvest, they apparently are not willing to eat."


Marlys agreed, but said people have to go beyond crops and milk output to understand the blessings of farming.

She grew up in St. Charles and married into farming. She remembers the first time she was alone with a cow giving birth. The cow was having problems, and she had to act.

"I got in their and pulled that calf," she said. "It was a struggle, but when that calf was born, I sat down and bawled. I just cried." Part was relief, part was joy.

Dale said one of his friends takes a blessed palm from a past Palm Sunday and puts the palm in the ground when he plants.

"For him, it's a form of prayer," Marlys said.

Most city people are only a few generations removed from the farm, she said. Coming to the Harvest Mass will let them see their heritage.

"This is something they actually need, to come and witness, to see what we are doing, to see everything we are doing," Marlys said. "We are reliant on the Lord and the weather, the sunshine and rain."

"Without God's will, we wouldn't be where we are today," Dale said.


He sees his work as a way of protecting what God gave the world. There is only so much land and it must be conserved, he said.

"We are taking care of this for the next generation and the next generation and the next generation," he said.

There is one more harvest people should know about, one deeply personal for them, Marlys said.

"As a family, we have harvested many riches, more than corn and beans and the alfalfa," she said. "We have four grown children and their spouses and 12 grandchildren."

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