Alberta growing projects see diverse harvest results in challenging growing season

Friday, February 1, 2019


Members of the St. Paul’s Presbyterian community and church growing project in Eckville, Alberta harvested 120 acres of canola with the help of seven combines, three grain haulers and one wagon. (Photo: Submitted)

Over 4,000 acres harvested to help families experiencing hunger overseas

The Acres of Hope growing project north of Edmonton in Mallaig planted two different crops that experienced very different growing conditions this year.

“The canola just didn’t mature because we had so much smoke from B.C. wild fires,” says project member Louis Dechaine. “It’s still in the ground, and we’re hoping it’ll get wet and dry out again over the winter season, so we can harvest in spring.”

When the smoke rolled over the group’s second field of wheat, though, members were thankful.

“We had some really hot weather, and the smoke came during that time, so I think it actually allowed my wheat to not burn,” says Don Katerynych, who donates the land.

The hard red spring wheat yielded slightly over 60 bushels an acre, he says.

“It was a very good crop, we’re pleased with it,” says Katerynych. “It was a little on the tough side when we took it off, but I put a little bit of aeration on it. It’s a number two wheat, so it’s quite a success for this year.”

Dry summer, late harvest for many northern Alberta projects

“We usually get pretty diverse results across the province, but this year saw some interesting contrasts,” says Terence Barg, Foodgrains Bank regional representative in northern Alberta.

In general, growing projects in northern Alberta experienced tougher-than-usual growing conditions.

“It was dry through most of the summer,” says Barg. “Then harvest started, then in the third week in September it started to snow. At that point, there were hardly any projects north of Red Deer that had harvested, so nobody did any harvesting for almost a month.”

“Then we had two weeks of reprieve at the end of October that saved a lot of farmers and a lot of growing projects,” he says. “We were very thankful for that.”

Despite these challenges, members of the St. Paul’s Presbyterian community and church growing project in Eckville were pleased with their results.

“We had very little rain fall, it was real drought conditions,” says project member Ron Hopper, who farms the land.

When the weather cleared up after the early snow in September, volunteers showed up in numbers to help get the 120 acres of canola off the ground.

“We had the whole crop off with seven combines, and it only took us a couple hours or less,” says Hopper. “The yield was a bit less than we expected—it ran about 40 bushels per acre—but due to the dry year, it was still good. We were still really happy with it.”

Growing project a ‘labour of love’

The southern Alberta story is a little different than that of northern Alberta, says Andre Visscher, Foodgrains Bank regional representative in southern Alberta.

“It was dry in general, but with irrigation many projects were able to grow and harvest some really healthy crops,” he says. “Some of our growing projects actually had record-breaking years in terms of total money raised.”

One of those projects is the Coaldale-Lethbridge growing project.

“We had a very good year,” says project treasurer Herb Wall, noting it was a record year for the project. “We grew 125 acres of irrigated barley and got 140 bushels an acre for it.”

While the record year partly because of the good growing season, Wall says it’s also because of the support the project receives.

“We get very good community and corporate support,” he says. “That’s always the case—people will drop what they’re doing to come and help us for a few hours. It’s a labour of love.”

“We have a strong committee that all pitch in to help,” he continues. “We might not all have time to go on a mission trip, but we all have time to do this to help people who are less fortunate.”

– Shaylyn McMahon, Communications Officer