CHOICE growing project near Elm Creek celebrates successful harvest

Friday, September 8, 2017

By John Longhurst

After a word of welcome from organizer Abe Elias, the CHOICE growing project harvest for Canadian Foodgrains Bank near Elm Creek, Manitoba, started like all the others I have been at in the past—with a word of prayer.

Foodgrains Bank Executive Director Jim Cornelius, attending the harvest from his nearby office in Winnipeg, thanked God for the “wonder and bounty of creation.”

He went on to thank God for all those who serve God by growing food to help feed others, and for “the grains of this field, which will feed many” who don’t have enough to eat.

He concluded by asking for God’s blessing on the crop, for those who are hungry, and “for those who will harvest it.”

Then it was time for a harvest lunch—hamburgers provided by Janzen Pontiac and Newman Hand Insurance in Carman and desserts by people like Alice Elias, Helen Rempel and Sheri Klassen.

Over lunch along a row of pick-up trucks with their gates down, Elias extolled the many people who make CHOICE—the name stands for Conquering Hunger Overseas is a Community Endeavour—possible.

“It is so heartwarming to see so many whose hearts in the right place,” he said, noting corporate sponsors like Richardson Pioneer, Cargill, Agro 360 and Roland Air Spray.

He also noted people like Fred and Helen Rempel, who donated the 80 acres of land, along with the many individuals who helped with the growing and harvesting of the crop, and also the nearby Wingham Hutterite Colony.

“I can’t say enough about the colony,” he said of how they looked after the field and brought three combines to the harvest.

He also had special praise for the Rempels, who donated the land for the project.

For Fred and Helen, it’s no big deal.

“We’re retired, so we don’t need the land for production,” he said.

“As long as people are starving, we want to do what we can,” added Helen.

Both feel blessed, and want to share with others.

“We have so much in this country,” said Fred. “There’s no way we wouldn’t want to help others.”

Levi Hofer, farm manager for the Wingham colony, feels the same way.

“It’s our God-given duty to help others in need,” he said of why the colony supports the project.

“It’s a privilege and an honour to live in a country where we have so much—more than we deserve. We want to share it with those who aren’t as fortunate.”

After lunch, it was time for harvest. The six combines started up and headed for the field of grain, passing by the three rows of trucks waiting for the crop to be delivered by tractors pulling carts filled with the crop.

Cam Goerzen is one of the drivers. “I’m always happy to help out,” says the farmer, who has brought his grain truck to the harvest.

“I was going to bring my combine, too, but Abe said he had enough.”

In addition to helping at the harvest, Goerzen also donates to the Foodgrains Bank.

“I make a donation of grain every year,” he says, adding that he donates because he “believes in the Foodgrains Bank.”

After being loaded, the trucks delivered the grain to the Richardson Pioneer elevator. Jason Fillion, area marketing representative for the company, attended the harvest.

“It feels good to be part of it,” he said of his own involvement, and the company’s. “It looks like it’s going to be a good yield.”

And, indeed, it was; 87 bushels of wheat per acre, up from the usual 60 bushels that is the marker of a good crop. The result was $43,000 for the Foodgrains Bank.

For Elias, watching the combines and tractors in the field, it was an inspiring sight.

“None of this would be possible without all this help,” he said.

Now retired from farming, Elias has been involved with the Foodgrains Bank since the late 1970s, when it was the Mennonite Central Committee Food Bank.

“I remember taking grain to the Fannystelle elevator, an area collection point, unloading it, bagging it

Something that is especially rewarding is the respect the Foodgrains Bank has in the community, and among local businesses.

“That’s very humbling,” he said, adding that businesses involved in agriculture “bend over backward” to help the project. No one ever says no when we ask for support.”

If it wasn’t’ for the corporate support, “this project wouldn’t happen.”

Harold Penner is the Foodgrains Bank regional representative for Manitoba. He couldn’t be at the CHOICE harvest; he was at another of the over 35 growing project harvests in the province that day.

Altogether, there are over 5,500 acres in the Foodgrains Bank “farm” in Manitoba, he says.

“It’s been a good year for crops in the province,” he says. “Manitoba did very well with the continued dry weather and excellent harvest conditions.”

But beyond the yields, Penner is most impressed with the people who make it possible.

“It wouldn’t be possible without the many farmers, businesses, churches, Hutterite colonies and others who volunteer each year to grow crops for those who are hungry,” he says. “That’s the most important thing.”

Penner’s comments echo across Canada; altogether, over 250 growing projects grow crops for the Foodgrains Bank each year from Prince Edward Island to B.C.

Last year, the growing projects and other community events raised over $6 million for the Foodgrains Bank. With other donations, and with matching support from the Canadian government, the Foodgrains Bank provided $41 million of assistance for 900,000 people in 35 countries.

As for me, I thank God for every project, and for every volunteer, business, corporation and church that supports them. Through their efforts, hundreds of thousands who don’t have enough to eat will be fed.

John Longhurst directs Resources and Public Engagement for Canadian Foodgrains Bank.