Bronec family photo
Jim Bronec and his trusty John Deere at Praying Mantis Organic Farm.
Bronec family photo
Jim Bronec and his trusty John Deere at Praying Mantis Organic Farm.
People who pick up jack-o-lantern pumpkins from New Seasons this month are most likely taking home one harvested by a member of St. Andrew Parish.

Jim Bronec, a third generation farmer, runs Praying Mantis Organic Farm just outside of Canby in the unincorporated area of Yoder. There he raises sweet corn, butternut squash and cover crop seeds (red and crimson clover).

All four of Bronec’s children help out. They were raised with the values of hard work, sustainability, generosity and a deep respect for the earth.

“[Jim] carries these values into his farming, his parenting and his service to St. Andrew’s,” said Bronec’s wife, Celeste Kersey.

Every fall, Bronec offers members of St. Andrew’s Youth Ministry a fair trade — they come out to the farm to help with the harvest and they are invited to take home bins of pumpkins, which they turn around and sell the last two Sundays of October as an annual fundraiser. The young folks have a chance to get their hands dirty, and Bronec and his family serve everyone a communal meal.

After emigrating from Czechoslovakia and homesteading in Montana, Bronec’s grandfather bought a farm in Hubbard. Bronec’s father and uncle worked the land, where his brother still today farms grass.

After studying agriculture business management at Oregon State University, Bronec left for Detroit as a Jesuit Volunteer.

“That was quite eye-opening, and changed me a lot in terms of my spirituality, as well as the choices I wanted to make,” the farmer said.

Bronec and his new bride returned to Oregon, where they chose St. Andrew’s as their faith home. It was in those church pews that Bronec befriended an organic farmer, who was making a living without damaging the environment. From this friend, Bronec learned about the world of organic farming and felt called. So, he bought 60 acres 15 years ago and put down roots.  

Bronec said he’s lucky to farm near Portland, where people are committed to buying organic.

“Had I done this 30 years ago, it would have been a small fringe food movement thing,” he said. “Now organic is so established that many people won’t buy food that’s been grown any other way.”

The butternut squash will now go to a Corvallis processing company, where it’s turned into soup and baby food.  Organic farmers across Oregon use his cover crop seeds to manage soil fertility. Bronec’s jack-o-lantern pumpkins hit New Seasons stores last week, and they will be available for purchase at St. Andrew’s (806 NE Alberta St.) after Sunday Masses on Oct. 20 and 27.