Four decades of growing projects working to end hunger

Wednesday, February 15, 2023
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I got involved with the growing project when I was young. I’m reminded of my dad quite often. It’s good to remember the stuff we did together.

Chad Ferguson, Naicam Spalding Growers Project

Growing projects happen when farmers, individuals, businesses, churches and anyone else interested in helping end hunger come together to grow a crop. After the crop is harvested and sold on the Canadian market, the proceeds are used by Foodgrains Bank members in the work of ending hunger around the world.

Two of the original growing projects in Carrot River, Sask. and Paisley, Ont. are no longer operating. However, their vision continues to thrive in 218 active community growing projects across Canada. And many of them have lasted decades and spanned generations.

Today, we’re highlighting two of the active growing projects in Saskatchewan and Ontario, which have been passed down from generation to generation, farmer to farmer.

Saskatchewan Growing Project marking a quarter of a century

Naicam and Spalding are two central Saskatchewan towns that are a mere 10 kilometres apart. Right smack in the middle of the two is the Naicam Spalding Growers Project, which has raised over $800,000 for the Foodgrains Bank. 2023 will mark their 25th year of operation, and Harvey Jackson has been involved since day one. As famine was gripping North Korea, he heard a voice in his head repeatedly asking ‘What if? What if it happened here?’

Harvey Jackson hands out caps to volunteers at Naicam Spalding’s harvest day. (Photo: Rick Block)

That’s all it took to motivate Jackson and help form a dedicated committee from the two communities. One member was Cam Ferguson who has since passed away, but his son Chad picked up his dad’s mantle and is now on the committee. He particularly loves taking the crop off on harvest day, which helps bring back memories of his dad.

“I got involved with the growing project when I was young,” says Ferguson. “I’m reminded of my dad quite often. It’s good to remember the stuff we did together.”

Although he’s stepping down from the committee, he’s confident Naicam Spalding Growers Project can last another 25 years.

“I believe in bringing on new blood and new ideas from the younger generation.”

Three generations help York Region Growing Project thrive

In Ontario, the York Region Growing Project was started by Howard Burkholder and although he’s no longer actively involved, his son picked up where his dad left off.

“My father is one of the guys that got it up and running,” says Chris Burkholder. “As long as I can remember, from high school on, I’ve been involved with this growing project so it was ingrained in me to keep it going.”

Burkholder travelled to Ethiopia as part of a learning tour and seeing the work Foodgrains does overseas left him “amazed and impressed.” His son Luke started farming three years ago and now also volunteers with the growing project.

Ontario regional representative Henry Reinders connects with Luke Burkholder. (Photo: Jeff Steiner)

“Luke is the kind of guy who’s not afraid to try new things and get outside his box,” explained Chris. “I really want to get the next generation involved.”

Since 2010, the York Region Growing project has raised over $527,000.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2023 edition of Breaking Bread. Download your copy here.

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