Why is San Isidro the patron saint of farmers?

The saying goes that “San Isidro Labrador takes away the water and puts in the sun” due to the relationship that exists between the saint’s name day and the moment when the good weather begins, the 15th of May.

He is a saint linked to agriculture and livestock farming, who is traditionally asked for good harvests, good weather and, lately, even good market conditions and profitable prices for farmers and livestock farmers.

However, in order to understand the relationship between the agricultural world and the saint, it is important to know the legend, the history and his life.

San Isidro Labrador was born in 1082 in Muslim Madrid, under the Taifa of Toledo. He was a Mozarabic farmer who served the Vargas family and other landowners such as Francisco Vera.

He was born into a humble family of Mozarabic settlers who repopulated the lands won by Alfonso VI in the Reconquest.

Water in abundance 

The information that we begin to know about him begins in his youth, since after being orphaned he worked as a drainsman, like his father, in the service of the Vera family. And here we begin to know that he had such a good hand that there was no well in his service from which water did not flow abundantly, even in dry lands.

At this time there is already a reference to one of his miracles. A lady, Da Nuña, hired him to open a well in her farmhouse, an excessively rocky terrain that put the protagonist in great difficulty. Even so, through prayer he managed to soften the stone, where his footprint was imprinted.

The invasion of the centre of the Iberian Peninsula in 1110 by Ali ibn Yusuf made him move to Torrelaguna. Here he met María Toribia, whom he married and had a son, San Illán.

Oxen ploughing

It is there that he works for the Vargas family. And it is also where, as the story goes, one of his most famous miracles took place. The farm workers complained to the Vargas family that San Isidro was late because he was praying. One day the boss heard the complaints and went to check on them. When he arrived he could see that while San Isidro was praying, the oxen were ploughing on their own.

Another of his miracles was performed together with Mr. Vargas. They were in a time of great drought and had no way of feeding their people, so he went to San Isidro. He took out his dowsing rod, put it in the ground and water gushed out of the place.  

Saving his son

With his son Illán, the legend also tells that he fell into the well of the house. Before his wife’s pleas to save him, the saint began to pray and the water in the well rose until he pulled the child to the surface.

Mysterious sack of grain

The story goes that the passage of the mysterious sack of grain is also well known. One snowy day he was walking to a mill carrying a heavy sack of grain on his back. On the way, he felt sorry for a group of birds who, because of the snow, were unable to find food on the ground. Saint Isidore decided to share some of the grain he was carrying with them. When he arrived at his destination, he was astonished to discover that the sack was full again. 

The miracles told in the story of San Isidro are always related to agriculture or livestock farming. For this reason, the saint is always depicted with a farm dog or a pair of oxen and a pair of farming implements that reveal his profession. A profession that shows responsibility, solidarity and professionalism and involves hard work to ensure that food is not lacking on the tables.

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