FOCUS growing project nearly doubles acres to help hungry people overseas

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Over 100 people gathered in Elie, MB for a harvest celebration for the FOCUS growing project this year.

The FOCUS (Feed Other Countries Undo Starvation) growing project has almost doubled its impact in ending global hunger this year.

In ordinary years, the growing project has fields in the Oakville, MacGregor and Portage la Prairie areas of Manitoba, averaging about 250-300 acres.

This year, thanks to the additional efforts of five Manitoba Hutterite colonies, they have 420 acres across five different fields. The crops harvested this year were canola, soybeans and wheat.

“You don’t have to do a lot of work getting people involved,” says Gerald Loeppky, who chairs the FOCUS project. “The communities are so willing to help.”

Some of the colonies had previously supported the FOCUS project, while others had supported the Foodgrains Bank through other initiatives, but this year is the first time they’ve all come together for one project.

“The colonies are extremely generous and wanted to be involved,” says Loeppky. “Some donated land, others donated their time and equipment.”

To celebrate the new partnerships, more than 100 people gathered on October 5 near Elie where 120 acres of soybeans were being harvested for the project.

“We don’t usually do this kind of event,” explains Loeppky. “But we wanted to do something to celebrate the communities coming together in support of people in other parts of the world.”

It took one hour for 12 combines to harvest the soybeans, resulting in 5,400 bushels harvested. After the harvest, people gathered for a prayer, followed by a meal provided by one of the colonies.

“Look at the great work that can be done when people get together to serve the God we all love,” Loeppky said as he addressed the crowd. “It takes a lot of work from a lot of different people to do this.”

Harold Penner, Foodgrains Bank regional coordinator for Manitoba, also spoke at the event.

“On Sunday mornings we hear ‘This is the day God made,’” he said. “But I like to think today is that day with all of us joining together to do God’s work.”

For Tony Peters, treasurer of the FOCUS growing project, seeing everyone gather together to in support of global hunger was humbling.

“If I wouldn’t have been so careful I would have shed some tears,” he says.

In 1984, Peters travelled overseas with Foodgrains Bank member Mennonite Central Committee to Bangladesh and India where he witnessed hunger firsthand.

“I don’t think you come home from a trip like that and are ever the same,” he says. “The injustices overseas became very real for me, and I’ve been supporting the Foodgrains Bank ever since.”

Seeing different groups of Manitobans come together in support of people experiencing hunger is what the FOCUS growing project is all about, says Peters.

“When you’re hungry, you don’t ask what church someone goes to or where they’re from – you’re hungry and that’s all you think about,” he says. “So that’s what we think about – helping hungry people.”

– Shaylyn McMahon, Communications Assistant