Grow Hope projects bridge rural-urban divide; help end world hunger

Monday, September 24, 2018

Henry Friesen (with grandson Chase Kroeker on his shoulders), wife Nancy Friesen and daughter Bonnie Kroeker with granddaughter Capri Kroeker. (Photo: Justin Eisinga)

Henry Friesen was 19 years old when he took over management of his family’s farm near Hecla Island, Manitoba, after his father died.

For two years, he ran the family’s chicken, hog and grain operation.

These days, he works as an accountant and consultant. However, the love of making a living from the land is something that’s stayed in his heart all these years.

Now a grandfather, he’s adamant that his grandchildren, ages 2-6, grow up with an understanding of agriculture.

“Farming is very important to me. I would like a knowledge of it to be part of the very fabric of my grandchildren’s being.”

The desire to give their grandchildren insight into the joys—and challenges—of farming is why Henry and his wife, Nancy, have been part of Grow Hope Manitoba since its beginning in 2015.

Grow Hope projects happen when a farmer offers to grow as many acres of a crop as an urban community will sponsor. These sponsorships help cover the costs of inputs like seed and fertilizer.

When the crop is harvested, proceeds from the sale are donated to a member of Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Supporters are sent updates on how the crop is doing throughout the growing season and are invited to visit the crop and meet the farmer, often around harvest time.

Henry and Nancy sponsor one acre of Grow Hope Manitoba for each of their five grandchildren. The project donates its proceeds to Mennonite Central Committee Canada’s account at the Foodgrains Bank.

“We wanted to connect my farming roots with what is effectively a very urban set of grandchildren,” says Henry. “They can’t be farmers, but they can understand how crops grow if they have an annual connection and an annual tour.”

Ultimately, Henry’s efforts to involve his grandchildren in Grow Hope Manitoba comes down to three important values he hopes they learn.

“The concept of generosity, an awareness that we live pretty well compared to the vast majority of the world, and getting some dirt on the kids’ boots—those are the main reasons why we are involved in the Grow Hope project,” he says.

Over 50 Grow Hope Alberta sponsors gathered for a harvest celebration on July 29 at Richard and Esther Goerzen’s farm outside of Calgary. Proceeds from the sale of the crop will be donated to Mennonite Central Committee Canada’s account at the Foodgrains Bank. (Photo: MCC Alberta)

Bringing communities across the country together for a good cause

Altogether, more than 900 acres of farmland are available to sponsor through several Grow Hope projects across Canada, with more than five types of crops being grown, including wheat, soybeans and corn.

For the third year, Larry Dyck has made 40 acres available as part of Grow Hope Niagara in Vineland, Ontario, raising funds for Mennonite Central Committee Canada.

“We do it because we can, because we have the resources,” says Dyck.

“One thing that always means a lot to me is the trust that our urban sponsors have in us, and I’m grateful for that,” he says. “People who sponsor acres trust that we will be good stewards, and that’s not something I take lightly.”

Chris Lea is the farmer for Anglican Grow Hope, which planted its first crop of 15 acres of wheat on his land in Pembina Valley, Manitoba this past spring.

For him, Grow Hope is an opportunity to bring people together over a common goal of sharing what they have.

“My goal is to get rural and urban people together for a celebration of life, of the crop, of food, of the food industry, and of everyone that’s involved in agriculture—all in an effort to help provide nourishment and food for people who are underprivileged,” says Lea.

“We’ve all won the lottery here in Canada,” says Lea. “That’s how I look at it, and that’s why I think it’s our obligation to acknowledge the gifts we’ve been given here.”

There are several other Grow Hope projects across the country! To learn more about how to get involved with a Grow Hope project near you, visit

– Shaylyn McMahon, Communications Assistant